One step away from immortality
Virat Kohli turns 29 today, and at this age he finds the world at his feet. He has won whatever there is to win and now stands on the cusp of immortality. India is reckoned to be the most dominant force in world cricket under his leadership.
Born in a Punjabi family on November 5, 1988, Virat Kohli always had a knack for cricket. According to his family, when he was three-years-old, Kohli would pick up a cricket bat, start swinging it and ask his father to bowl for him. Today, he stands in front of us as the skipper of an ever dominant Indian side having scored the second highest ODI hundreds, coming only behind Sachin Tendulkar, a man who is considered one of the greatest cricketers in Indian cricket history. In the recently concluded ODI series with New Zealand, Virat proved his mettle yet again with another century which helped India clinch the series 2-1. With this one, he inched a little closer to breaking Tendulkar's record.
When Virat first laced up his boots and went out to bat in the famed blue jersey of the Indian cricket team with the swagger and confidence that has become his trademark, cricket fans knew they were witnessing the beginning of something special.
Kohli first played for Delhi Under-15 team in October 2002 in the 2002–03 Polly Umrigar Trophy. He was the leading run-getter for his team in that tournament with 172 runs at an average of 34.40. He became the captain of the team for the 2003–04 Polly Umrigar Trophy and scored 390 runs in 5 innings at an average of 78 including two centuries and two fifties. In late 2004, he was selected in the Delhi Under-17 team for the 2003–04 Vijay Merchant Trophy. He scored 470 runs in four matches at an average of 117.50 with two hundreds and top-score of 251*. Delhi Under-17s won the 2004–05 Vijay Merchant Trophy in which Kohli finished as the highest run-scorer with 757 runs from 7 matches at an average of 84.11 with two centuries. In February 2006, he made his List A debut for Delhi against Services but did not get to bat. In July 2006, Kohli was selected in the India Under-19 squad on its tour of England. He averaged 105 in the three-match ODI series against England Under-19s and 49 in the three-match Test series. India Under-19 went on to win both the series. In September, the India Under-19 team toured Pakistan. Kohli averaged 58 in the Test series and 41.66 in the ODI series against Pakistan Under-19s.
In February–March 2008, Kohli captained the victorious Indian team at the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup held in Malaysia. Batting at number 4, he scored 235 runs in 6 matches at an average of 47, and finished as the tournament's third-highest run-getter, and one of the three batsmen to score a hundred in the tournament. His century (100 runs from 74 balls) against the West Indies Under-19s in the group stage, which was called "the innings of the tournament" gave India a 50-run victory and earned Kohli the man of the match award. Kohli picked up a leg injury during the match but recovered in time to play the quarterfinal match against England Under-19s. He was instrumental in India's three-wicket semifinal win over New Zealand Under-19s in which he took 2/27 and scored 43 in the tense run-chase and was awarded the man of the match. He scored 19 against South Africa Under-19s in the final which India won by 12 runs (D/L method).
In August 2008, Kohli was included in the Indian ODI squad for a tour of Sri Lanka and the Champions Trophy in Pakistan. Prior to the Sri Lankan tour, Kohli had played only eight List A matches and his selection was called a "surprise call-up." During the Sri Lankan tour, as both first-choice openers Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag were injured, Kohli batted as a makeshift opener throughout the series. He made his international debut, at the age of 19, in the first ODI of the tour and was dismissed for 12. He made his first ODI half-century, a score of 54, in the fourth match which helped India win the series. He had scores of 37, 25 and 31 in the other three matches. India won the series 3–2 which was India's first ODI series win against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka.
Kohli played in every match of India's successful World Cup campaign. He scored an unbeaten 100, his fifth ODI century, in the first match against Bangladesh and became the first Indian batsman to score a century on World Cup debut. Having returned to form with 59 against West Indies, he scored only 24 and 9 in the quarterfinal against Australia and semifinal against Pakistan respectively. In the final against Sri Lanka at Mumbai, he scored 35, sharing an 83-run partnership with Gambhir for the third wicket after India had lost both openers within the seventh over chasing 275. This partnership is regarded as "one of the turning points in the match," as India went on to win the match by six wickets and lift the World Cup for the first time since 1983.
After 200 ODIs, Kohli holds the distinction of scoring 8888 runs at an average of 55.55 and a strike-rate of 91.54 having scored 31 centuries and 45 half-centuries. Kohli has posted five hundreds in ODIs this year – the first player to do so in 2017. The next in the list is Rohit Sharma with four hundreds. Kohli also became the second Indian skipper after Sourav Ganguly (2000) to post five hundreds in a calendar year in ODIs. He is regarded as one of the best limited-overs batsmen in the world, especially while chasing. Regarding his impressive record batting second, Kohli has said, "I love the whole situation that comes with chasing. I like the challenge of testing myself, figuring out how to rotate strike, when to hit a boundary."
More often than not Kohli is compared to Tendulkar, due to their similar styles of batting, and sometimes referred to as Tendulkar's "successor". Kohli has stated that growing up, his idol and role model was Tendulkar and that as a kid he "tried to copy the shots [Tendulkar] played and hit sixes the way he used to hit them." Former West Indies great Vivian Richards, who is regarded as the most destructive batsman in cricket, stated that Kohli reminds him of himself. In early 2015, Richards said Kohli was "already legendary" in the ODI format, while former Australian cricketer Dean Jones called Kohli the "new king of world cricket".
At just 29 years of age, Kohli finds the world at his feet. India is reckoned to be the most dominant force in world cricket under his leadership. The nation adores him and the opponent players have no other choice but to begrudgingly respect him. He has won whatever there is to win and now stands on the cusp of immortality with the God of cricket, Tendulkar only standing in his way.