Kohli takes fresh guard, a stellar career enters a new phase 

Come Friday, the resplendent star will join the elite club of the Indian cricketers’ 100-Test club

Come Friday, the resplendent star will join the elite club of the Indian cricketers’ 100-Test club

BENGALURU

To play a 100 Test matches is to become a cricketer apart. It’s a lifetime’s worth of work, perseverance, dedication and sacrifice compressed within a small window of a decade and a little more.

After all, only 11 Indians have ever reached that milestone. On Friday, Virat Kohli is set to become the 12th when India takes on Sri Lanka in the first Test at the IS Bindra PCA Stadium in Mohali.

Through this journey, Kohli has been a resplendent star, unscathed by the relentlessness required to sustain epoch-conquering dominance. Even the most well-toned of bodies are subject to time, but Kohli, with his explosive athleticism still intact, has given out the vibes of a transcendent, unchanging champion.

Great all-format batter 

Ever since he made his mark in a floundering Indian batting order in the early years of the last decade, he has been the nation’s batting totem pole, a truly great all-format batter on whose willow rested the country’s hopes and cricketing pride.

And for a considerable period, he was the captain too, in internationals and the IPL, expending immense mental energy in trying to shape the side to match his self-assurance and drive.

It is this image that the astute former English captain Mike Brearley captured in his book On Cricket. “There are four great Indian batsmen, all imbued with what one might call ‘Indianness’,” he wrote. “They represent, one might say, colonial India (Ranji), Independent India (Pataudi), commercially booming India (Tendulkar), and an India that aims at greatness in all spheres (Kohli).”

Responsibility drove Kohli, the leadership role bringing the best out of his batting. It was first evident in the Adelaide Test against Australia in December 2014 when he scored a century in each innings and didn’t flinch at the prospect of a defeat in pursuit of victory.

In the 68 Tests he was skipper, he averaged an impressive 54.80, scored more than two-thirds of his runs and 20 of 27 centuries. He won 40 of those matches, the most for any Indian.

Kohli was not without shortcomings; he could be impulsive, impatient and self-righteous at times. His ‘no let-up’ approach didn’t rub everyone the right way. The fast bowlers revelled in it but a few others did not.

Magnetic personality 

But his is without doubt a magnetic and charismatic personality and it’s fitting that Mohali has decided to open its doors to crowds, for an absence of energy would have felt so un-Kohli like.

It would be interesting to see how Kohli approaches the next phase of his career. He has sunk a bit, having relinquished captaincy in Tests and T20Is, and stripped off the title in ODIs. Batting returns in recent Tests have been meagre. But the greats excel in their ability to constantly recalibrate approaches and reassess targets. Sachin Tendulkar went on to play a 100 more Tests after reaching 100, scoring nearly the same amount of runs as he had in the first half of his career (7,516 to 8,405).

Motivating factors

For Kohli, at 33, that may seem far-fetched, but the chance to hand-hold a relatively inexperienced batting line-up in the absence of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane can be one motivating factor. An ICC World Test Championship crown, that India let slip in the final against New Zealand last June, can be another.

There is little to suggest he cannot continue to enchant. He may well discover a whole new universe.

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