It was 20 November, 2009. A determined and focused Sachin Tendulkar, batting on an individual score of 34 was gearing up to face Chanaka Welegedara on the final day of the first Test match of the series against Sri Lanka at Ahmedabad. Everyone in the crowd was on their toes as a run would take the 'Little Master’ to a tally of 30,000 runs in international cricket, a feat that no other player in the world had achieved.
Welegedera ran in hard and bowled a good inswinging delivery. But,'Master Blaster' was up to the task as usual. He clipped the ball to the deep square leg boundary for a single and enlisted his name in the record books as the first man to have achieved the unthinkable feat of 30,000 international runs.
Cut to 20 November, 2017 — exactly eight years since Tendulkar achieved the Himalayan feet. The world witnessed something special from another Indian batsman against the same opposition once again, this time at the iconic Eden Gardens in Kolkata. A cautious yet aggressive Virat Kohli took Suranga Lakmal, unarguably Sri Lanka’s best bowler in the entire match, for a flat and powerful six over extra cover to reach his 18th Test hundred. The Indian skipper went down on his knees and let out a big roar to celebrate what was also his 50th century in international cricket.
Not only that, the fact that he became the joint fastest to reach the landmark, in a record 348 innings, was an evidence of his consistency and knack of scoring big runs. And the condition, situation and scenario in which he scored the runs made it even more special.
Although, India had established their stronghold in the match, ending the fourth day on a score of 171/1, they were jolted with three big blows as Suranga Lakmal got rid of KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane in quick succession. The Indian skipper, who had walked out to bat at the fall of Rahul’s wicket, was a mere spectator at the other end as India lost those three big wickets in a space of 21 runs with just a slender lead of 91 runs.
The pitch had eased out a lot as compared to the initial days of the match. But, Lakmal’s superb spell and some good support from the other Sri Lankan bowlers made it hard for the Indian batsmen to survive. The situation was tricky. It was pretty difficult to survive out there more because of the pressure than the conditions. Most importantly, the situation was perfect for the rise of a hero once again. And no one knows these situations better than Kohli. He thrived under pressure and took adversity in his stride like a champion to notch up a beautiful ton. The result was a masterpiece — an unbeaten 104 off just 112 deliveries — an innings that comprised of 12 classy boundaries and two monstrous sixes.
Wickets kept falling at one end but he kept kicking on at the other in the way we are used to seeing him in crisis situations. The story needed a rescue act and Kohli was up for it. He looked all set to play the role of the protagonist once again. And he did it in style showing that he is as much a Test player as he is a limited-overs player.
The most fascinating part of his batting is the way he approaches the game. He is never chasing down records or milestones. His focus is always on achieving the positive outcome of a match and making impact through his performances. And records just fall in his path which is characterized by devotion, passion and consistency towards the game.
“If I can step up and perform, that will give me more pleasure than thinking of the number of hundreds I have. That will remain the mindset till I play this game,” Kohli said after the match.
32 centuries in ODIs and 18 in Tests add up to his tally of 50 international centuries. Moreover, he is the only player in the world at present to boast an average of more than fifty in all three formats after his latest knock. Although, it looks like it has been ages since he made the shorter formats his own, it took quite a while for the real Kohli to arrive in Test cricket. However, now that he has arrived, hopefully there will be no looking back for him; it’s better late than never!