Virat Kohli. Not just a batsman, but an epitome of batsmanship.
Not just the all-format captain of a country obsessed with cricket. Rather, an adjective of greatness in an age that excites the fan and challenges the practitioners of this great game endlessly so. In an age where fans we are still glued to the idea of nicknaming our favourites, having not had enough of the Universe Boss, remembering Dravid’s Wall as much as idolising Tendulkar’s Master-Blaster, Virat Kohli doesn’t exactly have a permanent fixture as a sobriquet.
Perhaps there’s perfect sense to it. His name alone suffices for the absence of a nickname. It signifies grandness and largeness; a meaning that actually imbues his cricketing achievements. Had that not been the case, the Delhi-born lad would not have scored 70 international centuries (Tests+ODIs), as on date. If that’s not indication of a grand achievement by someone who’s still 32, then what is?
But with every great batsmen who has a hand in decorating cricket with memorable achievements, there come certain chinks in the armour too. And while technically one cannot run down the mainstay of Indian batting, except say, temporary niggles in coming to the line of the moving delivery or the foxy spins that, at times, leave him guessing, there’s no haunting weakness (as such) in his craft.
Well, that’s unless you were to turn a blind eye to a void that certainly needs some filling, since it’s almost about two years now.
Among the questions that puzzle the die-hard Indian cricket fan, besides whether the visitors will beat England in their backyard this time, concerns the finest bat in the Indian line-up.
Half a decade back- when Carlos Brathwaite fired four consecutive sixes and stunned England and moved the world in admiration, Ian Bishop birthed a line that, since then, has become legendary: “Remember the name!”
Taking a leaf from the Trinidadian’s book and placing it in the context of Indian cricket, you are more than likely to resort to a phrase, which actually sounds like a sad query: “Remember the date,” when Kohli last struck a Test century?
For a country obsessed not only with its idols, but also their records, more so in an age where stats are constantly resorted to, whether directing bouquets or brickbats at cricketers, it cannot possibly hurt the fan anymore to note their captain’s last century came in November 2019. That’s over one and a half years back in the day.
Interestingly, Kohli’s 27th Test ton- against Bangladesh- came at the very venue that Brathwaite starred in at and Windies went on to own, much like India did back then. Truth be told, a lot of water has flown under the bridge since that point. The fan devoted to a sport in which he finds a true reflection of life, can no longer wait for one of cricket’s greatest son’s to raise the bat again. His patience has already been tested, perhaps to the hilt. Any more waiting time would burst rivers of tears from one’s eyes. And perhaps the barren run sans a three-figure mark, has even stunned Kohli’s opponents, who on a routine day in the field, are subjected to elegantly crafted boundaries and glowing cover drives and exquisite batting.
If one were to truly imagine how long this wait has been, then think of the things that have occurred since November 2019 to the present day and you’ll fathom why everyone’s waiting for that elusive Test hundred.:
The world went into a lockdown being struck by a life sickening virus.
The West Indies won their first away Test series in Bangladesh in over half a decade, birthing a rising star in Kyle Mayers.
The Proteas are back to the winning ways, having won fair and square down in the Caribbean, before going onto thrash the Irish.
World cricket witnessed the rising of a new talent from the sub-continent: Mohammad Rizwan, also the highest T20I scorer in 2021 and a Kiwi with firepower called Devon Conway.
The dangerous Kevin O’Brien called it a day from ODIs.
The sport’s greatest format witnessed a final of the World Test Championship, in which Kohli and men failed with the bat despite reaching the finals.
Cricket birthed a new format altogether - The Hundred, much to everyone’s liking.
And above anything else, Indian women’s cricket resumed Test cricket and nearly got England women by a surprise.
The above said, to doubt Kohli’s potential would be committing a sacrilege of sorts. Dumb idea. But to understand why it’s taken one of the world’s premier batsmen so long to reach a milestone achieving which regularly seemed one of his favourite habits seems a more plausible thing to do.
Probably it’s one of those lean patches that every great faces, which only explains that to err is human after all. Dravid himself encountered a lean patch in no fewer than 3 years in Test cricket. Or probably it’s the pressure of playing all format cricket and with some daunting regularity.
Though truth certainly is, only Kohli can deliver a fitting answer about the period of wait prolonging which would frustrate himself as well as those who can’t imagine the sport minus the great man. Fortunately, there are 9 immediate innings available to the man behind nearly 24,000 international runs to break the chain of bad luck and take the monkey off his back.
Ideal time to do it in Joe Root-land. What do you reckon Mr Virat Kohli?