On August 18th, 2008 a 19 year old make-shift opening batsman, makes his debut for India, scoring 19, replacing Sachin Tendulkar at the top of the order. That debutant will go onto become, arguably the greatest ODI cricketer of all time and the most complete one-day batsman to grace the game.
At the time of writing, Virat Kohli has scored the second most ODI tons of all time, was the fastest batsman to 8,000,9,000,10,000,11,000 & 12,000 ODI runs and has scored the most hundreds tons whilst chasing. A batsman truly befitting the term “Chase Master”, as bestowed upon to him by his bat sponsor, MRF.
When examining the career to date of an all time great sportsman, it is easy to simply cite statistics which in themselves allow statisticians to marvel, in much the same way Messi & Ronaldo have done in football. However, cricket is unique as every innings will tell its own story and the romanticism of that, cannot be conveyed in stats. Therefore, I have picked out a few “Kohli classics”, which speak to the greatness of India’s superstar captain.
vs West Indies, 2009 Champions Trophy
In a recent conversation between Steve Smith & Virat Kohli (statistically the two greatest batsman of this current era) when asked by Smith when he first felt comfortable in international cricket, Kohli referenced his innings in the 2009 Champions Trophy, where he scored an unbeaten 79 in India's successful chase of 130 and won his first man of the match award. Despite the match baring no significance in the outcome of the series, this was the first match of his early career where Kohli asserted his authority onto Malinga & co and demonstrated to himself that he has the ability to do so.
vs Sri Lanka, 2011 Commonwealth Bank Tri-Series
In 2011, India took on Sri Lanka as part of the Commonwealth Bank Tri-Series, Kohli scored 133 not out from 86 balls to take India to a comfortable win earning the Man of the Match award. Whilst dismantling the Australian bowling attack, Kohli moved through the gears effortlessly dissecting the field, picking out boundaries with ease. Following the innings, former Australian cricketer and commentator Dean Jones called Kohli's innings "one of the greatest ODI knocks of all time”.
vs Pakistan, 2015 ICC World Cup
Taking on Pakistan, in the group stages of the 2015 ICC World Cup, batting first, Kohli came in at 3, as he often now does in ODI cricket. After being dropped by Mohammed Hafeez, early on in his innings, Kohli went about his innings with composure & grace, playing shots off the front & back foot Kohli returned to form, scoring 100 off 119 deliveries. Eventually departing for 107, it was a return to form for a cricketer who has gone out to set new heights in ODI cricket in the following years.
vs Australia, 2019 Gilette ODI Series
Chasing down 299 against Australia, in the second match of the 2019 ODI series, to level the series. Virat Kohli comes to the crease with India 49-1. His first runs come from a poorly timed leg-place, a target of 299 to win. A slow start to the innings was followed by scintillating strokes, delicate glances and aggressive running between the wickets, typical of a well paced viral kohli innings. A standout shot being his 6 over Nathan Lyon’s head, on 79. Kohli departed on 104, dragging the ball into the deep long-on boundary where Glenn Maxwell took a simple catch.
In November 2020, Kohli was awarded the Sir Garfield Sobers Award for ICC Male Cricketer of the Decade, as well as ODI Cricketer of the Decade. Already an all-time great, in the midst of his prime, countless great innings remain and Kohli’s claim to be not only the greatest one day batsman, but the most complete cricketer of all time continues.