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Sunandan Mishra

At last the shackles have been broken as king Kohli brought up his 71st international hundred in Dubai last night playing against Afghanistan. It was 34 months ever since Kohli’s fans were eagerly waiting for a hundred from his bat. In the absence of captain and opener Rohit Sharma, Kohli opened the innings with KL Rahul and scored 122* of 61 deliveries at a strike rate of 200. The innings featured 12 fours and six magnificent sixes.

Kohli Scored his last test century against Bangladesh in November, 2019 while his last ODI century came against West Indies, three months prior to that at Queen’s Park Oval.

After MS Dhoni resigned as the ODI and T20 captain of team India in 2017, Kohli became the full time captain of the team across all formats. He was playing beautifully during that time and it was being told that he might become the first player to come closer to the records of the great Sachin Tendulkar. In 2019 ODI world cup played in England and Wales, team India finished as a semi finalist. Virat Kohli scored five fifties but failed in the big game (semi final). He couldn’t convert his fifties into big hundreds which was the biggest point of worry for the team during the world cup. Later on, Virat went on to score two hundreds, one each in ODI and test against West Indies and Bangladesh respectively.

It was since November 2019, though Kohli had some decent knocks in between but couldn’t convert those into big centuries. After the super 12 exit in 2021 T20 world cup played in UAE, Virat Kohli’s form with the bat and his captaincy were being questioned and criticized continuously. He was careless while playing shots outside the off and some of his batting techniques were being questioned by cricket experts. As a result of which he first stepped down as the T20 captain on 16th September, 2021 then forced out of ODI captaincy on 8th December 2021. It was 15th January this year when Virat stepped down as the test captain as well to focus more on his batting.

Even after his decision to step down as the team’s captain, the poor form continued. In his last season as the captain of his IPL franchise RCB, he had a poor show with the bat scoring 341 runs at an average of 22.73 and strike rate of 115.98 with just two fifties. Just before this Asia Cup, he took 6 weeks break from cricket to make himself ready for the Asia Cup and the upcoming world cup. Just before the Asia cup, Virat told the press that, he didn’t even touch his bat during this time and the break was really needed for him to get out of that mental blockage.

It seems, the break indeed has taken the king back on track. Till now, he is the highest run scorer in the Asia cup with 276 runs with an average of 92 and an impressive strike rate of 147.59. After his 100 against Afghansistan, Virat applauded his wife Anushka Sharma for her support during the tough time and told the press that he can’t describe how much he needed that break.

Though Team India is blessed with a solid batting line-up, but Virat’s form with the bat has been the biggest concern for the team for last couple of years. Team India’s journey in the current Asia cup has ended with a good note and team will not play in the finals. In 10 days time, the team will play three T20 matches against the mighty Aussies followed by three T20s and three ODIs with the Proteas. This will set the stage for Team India before the upcoming world T20 in October. Virat’s form will be crucial for the India playing the world cup Down Under.

India had last won an ICC trophy back in 2013 under the captaincy of MS Dhoni when the boys won the Champions Trophy in England. India will be aiming to lift the world T20 trophy this time. Thus, Virat coming back to form must have given the team management a huge relief. Especially, at the time when team’s top order seems fragile against top bowling attacks. Virat’s record in Australia has been impressive and he performed better than Captain Rohit Sharma on Australian soil. He has played five of his games versus Australia Down Under and scored 252 runs with an impressive average of 84 while his strike rate was 149.11. Looking at his record in Australia and his recent form in the Asia Cup, it can be said that the king is back with a roar at the right time just a month before the World Cup.

 

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