Virat Kohli has completed 12 years of international cricket. He made his international debut as an opener against Sri Lanka on August 18, 2008 under the leadership of now retired MS Dhoni. He could manage just 12 runs in that match.
Nevertheless, 12 years later, he has transformed into a world-class batsman who is as feared as Sir Viv Richards of West Indies, and as revered as Sachin Tendulkar of India, and as consistent as Michael Bevan of Australia, across all formats.
Kohli’s international career can be divided into two halves – pre and post captaincy phases.
The 1st 6 years as just a player
Young, talented and ruthless
He was young, brash, chubby-faced, and full of passion and aggression. He loved to dominate bowling in this phase of his batting career. He struck few memorable tons in ODIs, especially his debut ODI ton that pleased Gautam Gambhir so much that he handed over his man of the match trophy to his junior.
In T20Is, he was a match-winner, taking control of an innings, batting at No 3. He had all the backing of his captain Dhoni to go all out and play his natural game.
Not holding back
Kohli also gained a reputation of not holding it back and giving it with interest to his opponents, be it sledging, verbal duels or dominating the bowling with his bat.
His on-field altercation with Gambhir in IPL made national headlines, while he had a few on field spats with players such as Ben Stokes of England.
Inconsistent Test career
Although Kohli had a great success as a limited-overs player, he was not consistent in Test cricket, the true test of a cricketer. He rarely had those match-winning or series-winning daddy tons that could put his name in the greats’ books. He also had a poor slump of form in 2014 tour of England where he managed just 134 runs in 10 innings @13.40 – the worst-ever series for him so far.
The 2nd 6 years of his career
After the disastrous England tour, Kohli worked on his game, lost weight, regained top fitness by adhering to disciplined workout, and a strict diet, with no cheat days. And the results showed soon.
Captaincy makes him a great batsman
His career made a big jump when he was asked to lead in the Test series against Australia in 2014-15 as Dhoni was injured. In his first Test as captain, he cracked twin tons although India lost that Adelaide Test by 48 runs. And with Dhoni’s sudden retirement, Kohli was given full charge of Test team.
And responsibility of leading a team transformed him into a world-class batsman. And since then, he has scored 7 double tons – a record for an Indian batsman – compared to none before captaincy. He also led India to World No 1 Test rank. He led India to a 2-1 series win in Australia & Test wins in South Africa and England in 2018-19 season.
Kohli became an even ruthless batsman in limited-overs, making sure he stayed till the end to see the team through. And scored a record 26 tons while chasing, with only 4 of them ending in losing causes. He averages 96.21 in successful ODI chases.
Confident and stylish
In this phase, Kohli became even more confident of himself, and changed his looks, and style to make a brand of himself. He donned well-shaped beard and wore formal attires more to add depth to his personality. And his on-field and off-field juvenile spats and altercations came down drastically.
The next 6 years?
Kohli, at his current fitness and performances, is likely to play for another 6 years, till at least 37, if not more. And going by his current form, he can easily break the record of 100 international tons by Sachin Tendulkar. His tally currently stands at 70 tons.
As captain, he must be eyeing a World Cup or World T20 glory to be ranked as a great skipper just like his predecessor, Dhoni.
And as a player, he has constantly improved his conduct on and off the field. He now lets his bat do the talking more, rather than relying on his mouth to give it back to the opponents.
Photo courtesy: Virat Kohli's Facebook page