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Virat Kohli 2.0

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Virat_Kohli_India_Test_Captain_cricketWhen Virat Kohli reached his 50 in the first innings at Visakhapatnam, he didn’t raise his bat to acknowledge the crowd. When he reached his century he didn’t take off his helmet nor did he celebrate jubilantly as we are accustomed to seeing him do over the years. Even when he reached the 150 mark, he seemed to be in no mood to celebrate as well.

However, what he did was something different. He just settled down and focused on achieving the next milestone, with a determined approach and sights firmly set on his next goal. It took Ben Stokes pulling off a superb catch to dismiss Kohli for 167. Something told me that this was not the Kohli we have seen over the years. He seemed to be a different person and player now- one who is destined to become a Legend in the longest format of the game as well.

 

“A Knowledgeable man answers every question; a Wise man knows when to answer them.”

Suddenly I remembered this old saying and realized how true it is in the context of the transformation in Kohli. A few months back he used to be an out and out aggressive player, fighting fire with fire and never afraid to take up a challenge. Challenge him and he would take you on. He’ll defeat you most of the times but sometimes that arrogance helped you to get the better of him. He had the knowledge of the game and was happy to answer all the tough and tricky questions thrown at him. But what he didn’t know was the right time to answer them.

The scenario has changed now. With experience, his transformation from a knowledgeable to a wise man is complete. Even in the second innings of the Visakhapatnam Test, he looked like he would repeat his first innings exploits and again it took a blinder from Ben Stokes to dismiss him just 19 runs short of what would have been yet another well-deserved century.

With this innings there was no doubt that this is just an upgraded version of the 28-year old: Version 2.0. But did the change come overnight or was it some innings in the past that paved the way for this transformation?

I started looking for the answers- Was it during his fighting 49 in the previous match at Rajkot that helped India draw the match? Was it during his maiden double century on the tour of the West Indies or way back during his memorable tour down-under in 2014-15?

I realized it was not a single innings but the experience that he gathered collectively during all these matches which helped him to become the determined man he is today.

The last year has been a memorable time for Kohli as the captain of the Indian Test team. He has won a lot of matches – 10 out of 18 Tests – and currently stands as the fourth most successful captain in Indian Test cricket history. It won’t be long before he crosses MS Dhoni’s tally of 27 Test victories to become the most victorious Indian Test captain.

Of all the captains that India has ever got in Tests, most players suffered a dip in their individual form as the pressure of captaincy is not easy to handle. But Kohli seems to relish the responsibility as he has got only better and better as a batsman since he became the captain. His batting average has been on the rise ever since he became the Test skipper and is nearly touching 50 now.

The innings of 49* that he played against England at Rajkot was a clear indication that Kohli had reached the next level as a Test batsman. Going back to the Australian tour of 2014-15, Kohli scored centuries in both innings of the first match he played as a captain. When wickets were falling at the other end with India chasing a target of about 350 runs, Kohli looked to be in golden touch with the bat. He kept pushing for the victory despite the tumbling wickets at the other end and ultimately perished after a superb century to his name. India lost the match narrowly by 48 runs.

 

Kohli had a win-only mentality at that time and didn’t know what it meant to settle for a draw. More than a year later, consider the Test against England at Rajkot. His approach towards the game clearly showed the grit and determination to survive on a tricky fifth day pitch, standing with a still head as wickets fell at the other end and yet having the will to take his team home safely. At the end of the game when he was asked about the positives he would like to take from the match in the presentation ceremony, Kohli replied, “At least now we know how to draw a Test match.”.

The world saw another version of Kohli that day- a new monk had arrived to enrich the history of the longest format of the game. With Kohli at the helm of things, India will only get better and better as a team from here. Just his presence on the ground will serve as a source of inspiration for his team-mates, similar to the legendary Sachin Tendulkar.

The rise of Kohli 2.0 is great news for Indian cricket, as it needed a leader like him to carry on the legacy of the former legendary players. He is already a superstar of Indian cricket now but it won’t take long for him to become a deity worshipped by the fans.

 

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Prasenjit, a techie by profession and Sports writer by passion, hails from the 'City of Joy'-Kolkat...

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