I have run out of adjectives for Virat Kohli and chances are, you probably have too. 2016 has been a sensational year so far for this dazzling Delhi batsman, who has scored 625 runs in 12 Twenty20 International (T20I) innings, 381 runs in five One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and in his very first Test inning, did what he had never done before in his career: score a double century in first-class or Test cricket. Those are the kinds of numbers which make you spellbound and force you to scratch your head in an attempt to come up with the right narrative for a sportsperson who continues to transcend himself, every time he takes his field of play. Virat Kohli’s first Test double hundred, which is the highest score by an Indian captain away from home, was an admirable knock – one which featured the Indian skipper embroiled in a battle of his own.
When he walked in to bat, with India at 2-74 after lunch on day one of the Antigua Test, numerous aspects would have been on Kohli’s mind: he had won the toss and chosen to bat first on, let us face it, a benign pitch, and yet a couple of his resilient batsmen fell cheaply. He, along with the Indian team management, had opted for the 5-1-5 combination, placing immense faith on the premier batsmen and bowlers to deliver the goods against a West Indian side significantly lacking in experience.
After Cheteshwar Pujara was dismissed in the very first over after lunch on day one, Kohli walked in, exuding the same level of intensity and purpose as he has done right from the start of his international career. But barely anyone of us envisaged Kohli throwing caution to the wind and monopolising a West Indian bowling attack spearheaded by Shannon Gabriel. So, one of the conspicuous aspects about his first innings knock in Antigua is how he dominated the West Indies bowling, even though the hosts lacked the quality of the Australian attack against which he hammered 692 runs in four Tests during India’s tour Down Under in 2014/15.
Coming back to the ongoing Antigua Test, almost every West Indian bowler offered Kohli at least one loosener in every over. But, while every other Indian batsman, except Murali Vijay, found a way to throw his wicket, Kohli was concentration personified and did not spurn an opportunity to improve his Test record, if nothing more. Before he walked into bat, Kohli’s Test average was 44.40 and of course, he had not scored a Test or a first-class double hundred, with his previous highest score in first-class cricket being 198 against SNGPL in 2008/09.
Straight after he reached the crease, these elements would not have crossed his mind and neither would he have planned to break these records. But the manner in which he went about the process of getting to 200, was, in my opinion, quite simply extraordinary. As aforementioned, the Antigua pitch has played well on the opening two days and Kohli, during his three-and-a-bit sessions’ stay in the middle, took full advantage of a good pitch to bat on.
Another standout aspect of Virat Kohli’s first Test double century was the way he controlled himself from fishing at deliveries outside his off-stump. Again, the ball did not swing or seam as it did in England a couple of English summers ago, and we are not talking James Andersons or Stuart Broads here, but Kohli, throughout his innings, made a conscious effort to either get right forward and negate any chance of nicking the ball to the slips or leave deliveries which were in the corridor of uncertainty, completely knowing where his off-stump was.
Gabriel, who was the pick of the West Indies bowlers in the first innings of Antigua Test, tested Kohli with deliveries outside the 27-year-old right-hander’s off-stump and the star Indian batsman was able to garner merely 10 runs off the West Indies’ bowling spearhead. But Kohli’s awareness of proceedings in the middle and his hunger to rectify one of the very few technical flaws in his batting were breathtaking. In case you are wondering if Kohli offered West Indies any chances during his innings of 200, well, the Indian Test skipper was in control 92% of the time.
Even after he was well set at the crease, Kohli was in no mood to play a rash shot and instead, played each ball on its merit. And, I can tell you that maintaining such discipline over an innings which almost lasted 50 overs – Kohli’s 200 came off 283 balls – is by no means a gimme. Kohli, however, did make it look easy, didn’t he? Also, the way he always tries to raise his game from one innings to another, attempting to cut down on the errors and exude more control, is simply unmatched. Which is why we have said that Virat Kohli‘s first Test double century vindicated his transcendent ability!