20-year-old Virat Kohli, already the U-19 World Cup captain, was the next big thing in Indian cricket but a solitary half-century in five ODIs was no reflection of what was to be seen in ten next year. .
As Kohli takes to the field on his 35th birthday, against South Africa in front of a crowd full of the same blessed turf, the handful who watched the act of generosity 14 summers ago would go over the top.
In extreme heat and humidity, Kohli scored 184 off just 121 balls in that final match against Town Club. It wasn’t even a good club attack but in those challenging conditions, there was incredible dominance from a future superstar.
“Bahut diana thaa. Lag raha tha skin phat raha hai (It was tough. The heat was unbearable),” Kohli told reporters that day instead of answering the usual questions on his return to the Indian side.
But that ‘club-class’ debut was the forerunner or sequel to the full-length feature film released some six months later on Christmas Eve when he scored the first of his 48th ODI – 107 vs Sri Lanka at the this ground. It was still a grim Kohli, not a world-class bowler, who formed a beautiful partnership with Gautam Gambhir. After the match, Gambhir called Kohli and gave the young cricketer a man of the match check as a gesture of encouragement from a senior player.
Who knows the world record equal to 49th hundred chances that it would happen exactly at the same place where it all started.
There will be 70,000 ‘Kohli masks’ in the stands only when “Viratians” (as their die-hard partisan fans identify) need to rouse themselves. Kohli in their hearts and a prayer on their lips for the 49th ton on the best streak for batsmen so far in the tournament.
“He is not tensed about his 49th century. His job is to contribute to the team’s cause and he has done that. We are still discussing the game.
“For me, what stands out is his discipline, his commitment and above all remaining so rooted and humble in this journey,” youth coach and mentor Rajkumar Sharma told PTI on the eve of his birthday his favorite student.
More than guru and shishya, Rajkumar and Kohli share a father-son bond. And now Kohli’s elder brother Vikas and sister Bhawna’s kids also train at the iconic West Delhi Academy in Paschim Vihar.
On Sunday, the coach plans an intimate birthday celebration with family members before heading off to watch his ward in action.
But before that Sharma has another challenge: dealing with requests from almost 50 Bangladeshi journalists, who want to interview him on the ‘Making of Virat’, something he has talked about millions of times.
As Kohli went through his batting drills as he does before every game, coach Rahul Dravid, who jokingly referred to Kohli as the team’s “wrong inswinging threat”, said Sunday would be no different.
“I think Virat was very relaxed and as you can see in his performances, you know, batting very well for us, really keen to do well as he always does. So, look, I didn’t notice anything different. He was always He was always professional, always working hard, always on.
“And, no, I don’t really think he’s thinking too much about 49 and 50, and probably certainly not about his birthday getting a year older. But, no, I think he’s focused very much on winning the tournament and playing some good cricket for us. I think he is doing very well,” said the head coach.
Life may come full circle for the cricket world’s most bankable mega-star, a phenomenon big enough for a global body to market his name to enter the Olympics.
It is Virat Kohli. It is everything. An unassuming talent, a rough-edged approach, a fitness freak, a frenzied running machine, a social media phenom blessed with eloquence to match, a fiercely protective yet elegant public figure.
His personality has changed and you can see how free and how expensive he was after he resigned from his captaincy.
On November 5 last year, Kohli was asked about his celebration plans and said that everything will happen after the T20 World Cup final in Melbourne.
BCCI did not get a nod for the CAB’s plans to celebrate a public birthday. Maybe the legend himself wants to keep everything on hold until November 19th.
That day, Mohammed Siraj and Shubman Gill did not mind carrying it on their shoulders at Motera.
That is the best birthday present available to the man who has carried the Indian team on his shoulders for over a decade.
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