Aggressive. Brash. Ill-disciplined.
When Virat Kohli started his international career, these words were used to describe the mercurial Delhi batsman.
A spell outside the team and a period of introspection saw Kohli reinvent his game, attain an exemplary level of fitness and then establish himself as not only one of the best batsmen of this generation but also the undisputed leader of the Indian team across all formats.
Kohli first rose to prominence during a domestic Ranji Trophy match playing for his state Delhi against Karnataka in 2006, his debut season.
On the third day’s play, Kohli hit 90 to save the match.
The astonishing part of the innings was the fact he played despite losing his father the night before.
Two seasons later, he led India to the Under-19 world title alongside future internationals Ravindra Jadeja and Manish Pandey.
After he was signed by Royal Challengers Bangalore for the inaugural Indian Premier League season in 2008, Kohli’s profile reached the stratosphere.
But after his ODI debut in the same year, Kohli found himself out of the team.
Kohli admits his “conduct off the field” was a possible reason.
Kohli doubled down in the domestic scene and forced his way back into the ODI eleven, hitting his first century against Sri Lanka at the end of 2009.
He had to wait until 2011 to make his Test debut, after lifting the 50-over World Cup a few months before.
A disastrous tour by India of Australia in 2012 where the Indians lost 4-0 brought personal redemption as Kohli hit 116 in Adelaide.
On that same tour, during an ODI tri-series, Kohli hit an 86-ball 133 to help India chase down 321 inside 37 overs that underpinned his credentials as a master of chases.
Not content with being just a good batsman, Kohli revamped his game after an ordinary 2012 IPL.
Out went late night parties and an unregulated lifestyle off the field and in came discipline with fitness at the front and centre of Kohli’s cricket.
The other turning point in his career came in 2014 when he was named Test captain and scored centuries in both innings at Adelaide against the Aussies.
His Test batting flourished under the weight of captaincy; six double centuries as skipper is already a record in Tests.
So proud of the whole unit. 🙏👍 What a series win. Jai Hind! 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/C2lgzmak7k— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) February 16, 2018
But the most captivating aspect of Kohli’s batting is his record in ODIs, and especially while chasing.
Combining the prolific run-scoring of Sachin Tendulkar with the finishing touch of Aussie legend Michael Bevan, Kohli has become one of the greatest ODI players off all time.
He is second on the all-time list of centurions behind Sachin Tendulkar (49) despite having played less than half the number of matches.
By the time Kohli finishes his career, he is almost certain to become the most accomplished limited overs batsman in history.
Kohli has had his fair share of lows with the bat as well.
During the 2014 England tour, he managed 134 runs in five Tests with his technique outside the off stump getting exposed.
One of the best ODI innings I have seen in the recent past. Congratulations, @imVkohli! Excellent work by #TeamIndia to win an ODI series for the first time in South Africa. Way to go, boys✌️✌️ #SAvIND 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/IjAlV2YpHp— Suresh Raina (@ImRaina) February 16, 2018
Reworking his game outside the off stump with the help of Sachin Tendulkar, Kohli took his game to the next level.
He now has Test tons in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand and ODI centuries in every nation he has toured.
Kohli has set numerous batting and leadership records for India, the foremost of them being leading the team to nine successive Test series wins and a first ever ODI series success in South Africa.
His career might not have started on the best note but by the time he approaches the end, dedicated, uncompromising and successful are most likely to be the words used to describe one of the finest players produced by India.