Virat Kohli’s celebration as he brought up his 25th Test ton with a sumptuous straight drive off Mitchell Starc at Perth on Sunday said it all.
The India skipper’s gesture of letting his ‘bat do all the talking’ was apt after the stellar 2018 he has enjoyed. Kohli’s 123-run masterclass saw him become the second quickest batsman in Test history to bring up 25 centuries.
The 127 innings taken by the cricketing demigod to attain the mark is second only to the legendary Sir Don Bradman (68) and three better than his India compatriots Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar.
It was the seventh ton registered by Kohli against the opposition and his sixth on Australian soil. Only two visiting batsmen in history have now scored more Test centuries in Australia than the India batsman.
However, more than the incredible statistics of Kohli’s feat, it was the sheer manner in which his innings had been constructed that got the sparse crowd at Perth on its feet.
While his status as an all-time ODI great had been all but cemented already, Kohli’s Test credentials keep touching new heights with each passing series.
In 2018 alone, the India skipper has scored 1,223 runs in 21 innings – ahead of the visitors’ second in Perth – at an average of over 58 with the help of five tons and four half-centuries. What is even more special about those statistics is that 19 of the 21 innings have come away from home.
It has been a year where India’s overseas credentials have been tested to the limit with tours of South Africa, England and Australia. Although the team might have failed to cover itself in glory so far, the skipper has come out with his batting reputation enhanced exponentially with the ‘King Kohli’ tag bestowed on him becoming all the more befitting.
The mind-boggling numbers, however, do not do enough justice to Kohli’s magnificence in 2018. In arguably the three toughest overseas tests available to an Indian batsman, Kohli has played perhaps his three greatest innings in the format.
Two of those three tons have ended up in memorable away wins for India. At Centurion in the start of the year, he waged a lone battle with the bat for the tourists with a marathon 153 that was constructed in the most treacherous of conditions.
He then followed up it up with an excellent individual tour of England where he banished the demons of his previously abysmal record in the country with a superlative 149 at Edgbaston.
There would be one more ton for Kohli on that tour but it is his Birmingham innings that will remain permanently etched in the memories of Indian cricket fans given his momentous battle with old nemesis James Anderson.
At Centurion, Edgbaston and now Perth, Kohli has displayed a warrior-like facet previously not seen in his batting. In each of the three innings, he found himself at the receiving end of some hostile and excellent bowling in adverse conditions and each time he found a way to counter the tide and rise above it.
He copped body blow after body blow at Centurion and was lucky to survive Anderson’s assault at Birmingham at times. At Perth, he was given a thorough working over by Pat Cummins in a testy period on day two.
However, each time, Kohli remained undeterred in the face of continuous pressure before coming out triumphant with three sublime innings.
Unlike Centurion and Edgbaston, the 29-year-old might even find himself on the losing side at Perth despite his monumental innings but that will not take away anything from his undoubted genius and brilliance.
A fighter at the crease in the truest sense, Kohli is now slowly translating his brilliance to the red-ball format and his No1 ranking and sensational 2018 are a testament to the greatness towards which he is fast ascending.
That he is now entering his ‘peak’ years in the cricketing sense augurs well for India and if 2018 was just a small taste of bigger things to come in the future, cricket fans around the world could be in a for a treat for many more years.
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