‍Is there such a thing as the perfect sportsman? The one that you can’t help but admire, no matter what he does on the pitch or how badly he plays? If you’re a sports fan and an Indian, then the answer is almost certainly ‘yes’. While we see our fair share of inspiring figures in our country’s sporting history, it is cricket that tends to inspire people the most. 

The national sport is so ingrained in our culture that even those who have never played it tend to understand its unique appeal. Well, maybe if they are not into cricket, but at least they understand why so many love watching it. The Indian cricket team has always been among the strongest in the world. With players like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, and MS Dhoni leading from the front with their brilliant batting and captaincy skills through many phases of our cricketing narrative, we have seen only too many peaks over the years. 

But perhaps among all these peaks and troughs, none were quite as frightening as Virat Kohli’s rise to prominence between 2010-2014. It should come as no surprise that this article will be mostly about his time during this period; after all, those were his first three ODI innings for India (which ended up being his last three) did he ever look back with regret?

 

Kohli’s Incredible Beginnings

When one thinks of the Indian cricket team of the late noughties,

the first name that comes to one’s mind is invariably that of Virat Kohli. The tall and stylish left-hander burst onto the world stage at just the right time, his mastery of the game is such that he seemed to have been playing the game in slow motion throughout his entire life. His debut came at the right time too, with the Indian team struggling to find consistency. 

His very first international knock showed some promise, as he scored a brilliant 84 off 83 deliveries against the West Indies, who were led by the great Brian Lara. But, this was a very young man in his very first game, and he had to learn quickly. 

Less than a year after his debut, he was selected for the Indian team for the Asia Cup,

one of the Quadrangular series that takes place during the Asian Cricket Season. Kohli’s performance was not as impressive, but he did make an important contribution to the team’s victory

by scoring a half-century with a good display of batting. But it was his stunning performance in the next game that made headlines. 

Kohli was yet again select for the quadrangular series in the UAE,

but this time the host nation Pakistan was taking part. The series was crucial for both teams,

as Pakistan were looking to regroup after a disappointing World Cup campaign

and India was desperate to restore their confidence after a string of defeats. 

On the final day of the game, India was struggling at a run rate of 4.50,

with both Kohli and Yuvraj Singh struggling at the crease. Suddenly, the two came together,

with Singh gifting Kohli a catch at mid-off, but he did not let the team’s hopes down. 

Kohli and Dhoni added 50 runs for the fifth wicket,

with Kohli smashing a six off the last ball of the innings to win the match for India,

who went on to win the series 2-1. It was the perfect way to cap off his international debut.

 

Kohli Takes Flight in the 2011 Under-19 World Cup

It was a good start to Kohli’s international career, but it was never meant to be. It was in 2008 that the young man received a call-up to the Indian squad for the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh.

And, to everyone’s delight, he was select for the squad,

as he had impress the selectors in the earlier regional series. 

When the tournament kicked off, Kohli did not disappoint,

as he led India to their first title in this age group’s World Cup by slamming a brilliant 257 not out

during the final against Pakistan. The Indian team was captain by none other than Yuvraj Singh, and the two made a powerful opening pair. 

Kohli was at his fluent best during the tournament, as he smashed four fifties

and a century, with the century being a 101 not out off just 81 deliveries. But, the knock that we remember him for the most is the innings of 257 not out against Pakistan. The Indian team needed 27 off the last ball to win the game,

and it was almost as if Kohli was reading the script. 

He swept his first two deliveries for no score, and then hooked the third one for a six,

leaving the Pakistani bowling side in total confusion. Then, while on his way back to the crease,

Kohli hit a few balls for sixes, and that was when he decided to go all out. He hit seven consecutive balls for sixes,

and that was when the Pakistani bowling side realized that they were in trouble. 

The Indians went on to win the game with the last ball, and they have crowned the champions. The team’s victory was a fitting way to mark the success of India’s senior batsmen, as India had failed to win the World Cup for senior men for the first time in the tournament’s history.

 

Kohli’s Terrifying Test Debut

Now that he was a part of the Indian team, Kohli was ready for an opportunity to make his Test debut. And that chance came in the form of the Lord’s Test in 2011. Kohli had some good performances in the 2010-11 season, but it was during the 2011-12 season that he really took off, as he scored a century and a fifty (the first against West Indies) in the two-match series against Sri Lanka. But, it was his Test debut that we all remember him for. 

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The Lord’s Test was a high-scoring affair, as both teams had scored a combined 788 runs on the board. India was chasing a 302-run target, while England was only require to bat out their 50 overs. Kohli was hand the new ball,

and he almost made an instant impact with the ball as he dismissed Alastair Cook in the third over of the game. Then, he clean up the dangerous Kevin Pietersen, and England was worry. 

Kohli looked like he was in control of the game, as he successfully kept out the new ball,

but the rest of the day was all about VVS Laxman. The left-hander scored a brilliant hundred

(his fourth hundred in the series) as he slammed six sixes and 11 fours in his brilliant knock. 

Kohli’s contribution in this game was significant, as he scored a fifty, but what was more important was that he did not let India down as the team went on to draw the game. But, his debut was not over yet, as he was put into the field for the final delivery of the game. India need just one run to win the game and Kohli was sent in with his eyes set on the final delivery. And then something happened that nobody could have ever expected. The delivery was short and wide of the leg-break, and it was a chanceless drive. But Kohli smashed the ball down the ground, and that was the ball that went for a six, as the ball went to the fence. The game ended in a draw, and Kohli’s rookie debut was a terrifying experience.

 

Kohli’s Second ODI hundred and Shows Signs of Improvement

After the Lord’s Test (in which he had hit a six off the last ball and was sent in for the final delivery), Kohli start to find his feet in the ODI team, and he had an excellent 2011-12 season as well, scoring 561 runs in 11 games with a strike rate of 111.57. One of the best performances during this time was during the New Zealand tour when the Indian team had to chase a massive 406 runs in the final. Kohli was instrumental in this case, as he smashed a brilliant 112 off 109 deliveries.

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