The heat of the battle always gets Virat Kohli going. But at the Queen’s Park Oval on Sunday, the fittest player in the Indian team had an uphill battle with the heat—as well as the humidity—before bringing up his first ODI century since March; a significant gap in Kohli years. Like Sachin Tendulkar, the only man ahead of him for most ODI hundreds, Kohli too has been recession-proof as far as reeling off big innings is concerned. Still, the 42nd hundred brought out many emotions. There was a leap, show of anger, and a tap of the bat against his shirt number.
Kohli need not remind anyone of his batting class, but the anger was perhaps channelled inward for not hitting the three-figure mark when it most mattered—during the World Cup last month. He had reeled off five fifties in a row in the group stage, but a century continued to elude him through the tournament. And India paid the heaviest price in the semi-final against New Zealand once Kohli had planted his front foot a touch early in seaming conditions. For, Trent Boult had dismissed the master of chases for just 1 run.
The fact that he was unable to control that difficult chase at Old Trafford may still haunt Kohli. But on Sunday, Kohli buried a few of his ghosts, conquering not just the conditions but also the early loss of the openers, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, as well as the early fall of Rishabh Pant. All of that left Kohli with a lot to mend. Which he did.
By the time Pant was dismissed, the Indian captain was well set with his front foot planted decisively. A few perfectly executed drives flowed through the off-side to get him going and in Shreyas Iyer—batting in his first ODI innings for well over a year and scoring a solid half-century —Kohli had a reliable partner. But there was still the not-so-small matter of mastering the sapping conditions of Trinidad’s capital city. Which, again, he did.
The century came as a relief for Kohli, and the 125-run partnership with Iyer sent India on the way to take control of the match. A total of 279/7 was going to be a challenging one even for a team with many enterprising batsmen. Rain stoppages left West Indies chasing 270 from 46 overs, but Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s 4/31 (Kohli took three catches to complete a great game) ensured a 59-run win under the rain rule.
“From Virat’s expression I could see he badly wanted to score a hundred—not because he was out of form (in the World Cup), but he was getting out in the 70s and 80s. He is always known for scoring big runs. The wicket wasn’t easy, we asked him when he came back to the dressing room,” Bhuvneshwar said.
Kohli is now No 2 among Indians in aggregate ODI runs, pipping Sourav Ganguly. He has 11,406, after Tendulkar’s record 18,426. Ganguly tweeted: “Virat Kohli another master class in one day cricket @imVkohli @BCCI.. what a player.”
These days, during matches that has witnessed his hundred, Kohli tends to break a handful of records. Sunday was no different, where he also overtook Pakistan batsman Javed Miandad’s record for most ODI runs against West Indies, when he surpassed his tally of 1,930. Kohli went past the 2000-run mark versus WI during the course of his seventh century against the team.
“It was challenging today as it rained in the day time, so it was hot and humid. Honestly, I was tired when I reached 65, but the situation demanded of me to work hard for the team,” Kohli told Yuzvendra Chahal on bcci.tv. “It was important for me to stay at the crease. As a team, we try that one of our top three batsmen goes on to play a big knock. Shikhar and Rohit have done that for us in the past, but today they couldn’t score, so it was important one should go on to score a big innings.”
On the other side, Chris Gayle became the leading scorer for West Indies during his innings of 11, and also became the first Caribbean batsman to play 300 ODIs.
Brief scores: India 279/7 in 50 overs (V Kohli 120, S Iyer 71, C Brathwaite 3/53) bt West Indies 210 all out in 42 overs (E Lewis 65, N Pooran 42, B Kumar 4/31) by 59 runs (D/L).
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