The King is back.
They say form is temporary but class is permanent and Indian superstar Virat Kohli showed every ounce of his undoubted class as he led India to a famous victory over rivals Pakistan at the T20 World Cup.
The elegant number three has an aura, an ego if you will. He’s someone you love to hate, and hate to love in equal measure.
Indian fans treat their cricketing heroes as gods, and Kohli well and truly took on the mantle after Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement almost a decade ago. As India’s ever-faithful run-getters - Virendar Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Tendulkar and VVS Laxman - slowly and surely retired Kohli stepped up to the mark to keep the proud nation where they belong as a cricketing force.
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His list of accolades ring far and wide, but arguably his biggest achievements are boosting the perception of Indian cricket worldwide and making Test cricket a bigger deal for Indians at a time when the IPL and the shorter formats have dominated. Kohli’s status has turned him into a global superstar. Earlier this year, he became the first Indian to reach 200 million followers on Instagram.
But on the field is where his heart lies. The fiery passion burns deep inside the phenomenally talented batter. When he steps foot over that white line all eyes are on him; a Bollywood star featuring in his very own blockbuster every single time.
Whilst captain, his desire to succeed in the five-day format has kept Test cricket relevant in the country. Kohli sees the red-ball format as the pinnacle and as a result so do millions of Indian cricket fanatics.
India have long been demons in their own backyard and winning a Test series there has always been the Holy Grail for visiting sides.
But what Kohli did was make them a genuine threat overseas by developing fast bowlers who could thrive in foreign conditions.
In 2019, Kohli led India to their first ever Test series win in Australia, something that even the greatest Indian sides of the past – including Tendulkar and co – failed to achieve.
Affectionately called ‘King Kohli’ in his homeland, Kohli’s participation at this World Cup was actually in doubt after an uncharacteristic sustained lack of his trademark consistent form.
It seems strange to think someone of Kohli’s calibre would be ousted for a big tournament. It would have been an enormous call, and one which would have been greeted with huge distain back home, but he was in the midst of a run drought many thought would prematurely end his glittering career.
His maiden T20I hundred against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup was amazingly his first ton in international cricket for almost three years.
And India’s enigmatic champion silenced the naysayers once again as he showed he is still the man with his last-gasp masterclass to get his country over the line in front of over 90,000 fans at the MCG on Sunday.
India against Pakistan is a rivalry like no other with political tensions between the countries at an all-time high. Cricket is what brings them together, the camaraderie between the two sides is a joy to see especially in the world we live in nowadays.
With the pressure to perform weighing heavily on his shoulders, Kohli delivered. His trademark glare was back, he was in the heat of battle and no-one was going to stop him.
He timed the run chase to perfection. India were down and out at 31/4. At one stage Kohli was struggling himself with 12 off his first 21 balls.
What happened next will go down in the annuals of history as one of Kohli’s greatest feats. He is the king of the white-ball run chase and rightfully took back his crown on the biggest stage.
With India on the verge of losing their World Cup opener, needing 28 off the last eight balls, Kohli expertly lofted Haris Rauf for an outrageous straight six off the back foot. A shot which mere mortals would never even dream of playing, but Kohli is no mere mortal.
He would eventually finish with an unbeaten 82 off 53 balls, a knock he ranks among a long list as one of his very best. He raved: “I’m lost for words, but it’s my best T20 innings because of the magnitude of the game and situation.”
Write King Kohli off at your peril.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject to Change