In many ways, it was fitting that Kohli edged out Tendulkar in the World Cup knockout match on November 15, as the latter watched from the stands.
Virat Kohli on his knees. He laid aside his staff, as a gladiator would take his sword after a successful fight; He took off his gloves and bowed his head. His idol, Sachin Tendulkar, was also there, as was his immortal self-representation in an erect statue. The huge crowd at Wankhede rose to their feet chanting his name as Kohli took a moment to enjoy all the emotions his career evoked. He achieved a feat that no other batsman had ever achieved before: a half-century. An equally appropriate occasion: the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand. Kohli stood up, raised his hands and praised his hero. Even for someone who always hides his emotions, Kohli looked overwhelmed as he bowed to Tendulkar. This was followed by an air kiss with his wife Anushka Sharma, which was also very emotional.
Records follow Kohli like a shadow, and this is the form in which he has flourished, these milestones have swelled like a piggy bank. His dominance in ODIs was such that at one point it looked like he would overtake Tendulkar and score a few more ODI hundreds. But sports, like life, work in mysterious ways. In nearly three years from 2019 to 2022, Kohli did not score a single century. Not in any way. When he returned from mental health leave in 2022, things took a turn for the better and he hasn’t looked back since. Kohli’s role in the World Cup team has also changed. He is no longer the executor. Now he just plays the role of a hitter, holding the anchor with one end while the other hitters wrap around him. Rohit set the tone while Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul and Suryakumar Yadav completed the job in the second half. All Kohli has to do is watch, play singles and doubles, pick occasional boundaries and maintain a good strike rate. That’s what he’s been doing throughout the World Cup, and Wednesday was no exception.
Kohli intervened after Sharma fell. First, establish a partnership with Shubman Gill and then Iyer. The 35-year-old had them running like mad between the wickets in the Mumbai heat, playing off his covers and reaching his fifty in 59 balls. And from there it continued. He lifted Trent Boult at mid-wicket, jumped and bowled Tim Southee, looked brilliantly at Glenn Phillips and in doing so surpassed another Tendulkar record; The person with the most hits in a single World Series (673 in 2003). It was clear then that the century was approaching. When that happened, a difficult second act in most typical Virat Kohli fashion, he jumped up and punched the air enthusiastically before falling to his knees. It’s an emotion we haven’t seen from Kohli for a while. It was the kind of celebration that lets you know how much this meant to him. By the time Kohli finished – 117 off 115 balls, 50 centuries in 279 innings – he had amassed 711 runs at a strike rate of 90.68 in this edition.
In many ways, it was fitting that Kohli edged out Tendulkar in the World Cup knockout match on November 15, as the latter watched from the stands. This was the same place where silence fell when Tendulkar crashed out of the 2011 World Cup final 12 years ago. It was also the place where he carried his idol on his shoulders after winning the World Cup in April 2011. That was also the day when Tendulkar walked off the field as an Indian batsman for the last time in his farewell Test ten years ago. On the same site. It was his maiden century in a World Cup knockout match, something even Tendulkar had never achieved in his 24-year career. The picture couldn’t be more perfect. It was Kohli who said that. “It’s the stuff of dreams. Sachin Bagchi was present in the stands. It’s hard for me to express that. My partner (Anushka Sharma), my hero, is sitting there. And all the fans at Wankhede. “If I wanted to paint a perfect picture, this is it,” an emotional Kohli told broadcasters during the half-time break.
For someone who got into this sport by watching his hero play, sharing a dressing room with him, winning a World Cup with him and then surpassing one of the most ridiculous records ever set by a hero, yours is ahead of him. The biggest stage – Wednesday at Wankhede looks to be Kohli’s destiny, where his life comes full circle. On the vast stage, his crowning achievement as the greatest ODI batsman the sport has ever seen was completed.
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