“He’s carried the burden of the entire nation for almost two decades; it’s time we carry him on our shoulders” Virat Kohli’s words in the immediate aftermath of India’s 2011 World Cup win are now immortal. For rarely, has any cricketer predicted about him dominating the game in front of the world and then walked the talk to become the very best in the business.
Kohli did that on the night of the 2011 World Cup final when commentator Nasser Hussain had asked him the reason behind him and his fellow teammates carrying Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar on their shoulders.
For Kohli, the words, as he later admitted, may have come out in the spur of the moment but the statement gave an insight into the thought process of the man, so driven by the respect towards his idol and the unrelenting desire to ensure that he carries the mantle from Sachin and shoulder the responsibility that the latter had carried on his shoulders for over two decades.
Kohli meant business. He didn’t want to be the second-best in the world. He wanted to be the best. And, just over ten months later, on this day in 2012, he gave us a glimpse of what he meant when he had said those immortal words in April 2011.
India (Virat Kohli) vs Sri Lanka. Hobart. 2012.
The stage was beautifully set for Virat Kohli. Three years into his international career, he had played several brilliant knocks to impinge himself as one of the best young cricketers going around.
But he still needed a knock that would put him in the big league; an innings, you know, that would make everyone stand and take notice, like the ones MS Dhoni played against Pakistan and Sri Lanka in 2005 or like the twin knocks his idol Sachin Tendulkar had played against Australia in April 1998.
That innings finally arrived on this day in 2012 where Virat Kohli, via his bat, told the entire cricketing folklore that ‘Come, look at me. You are amid greatness’.
India were up against it. Their bowlers had just been smashed to the tune of 320 in 50 overs by the likes of Tillakaratne Dilshan (160) and Kumar Sangakkara (105).
To make matters worse for them, they needed to chase down the target in 10 fewer overs to get a bonus point and stay afloat in the competition.
India got off to a brilliant start to their run-chase with openers Virender Sehwag (30 off 16) and Sachin Tendulkar (39 off 30) smashing 86 runs in the first ten overs.
The hair apparent takes the baton from the Master
Sehwag was dismissed in the 7th over and when Sachin got out in the 10th, Indian fans were like ‘Oh! Here we go again. As a dejected Tendulkar left the field, Virat Kohli entered the cauldron in what was a perfect ‘shifting of the baton’ moment, a moment that saw ‘God’ pass on the responsibility that he had carried on his shoulders for 22 years to his heir apparent.
And, Kohli, as he had said during that interview with Nasser Hussain, embraced it to the hilt.
Virat looked in the zone right from the very outset. But not even him, let alone the fans, would have envisaged what was about to unfold, neither would have Lasith Malinga- the best white-ball bowler at the time.
Kohli announced himself with a beautiful flick of a wrist on a low full-toss by Malinga. The ball raced past the mid-wicket boundary. During the first 44 balls of his innings, it seemed like a normal Kohli knock, laced with sumptuous cover-drives, inside-out lofted drives, square-cuts amid plenty of 1s and 2s as he reached yet another fifty in ODI cricket.
But, as they say, it was just a calm before the Kohli Tsunami swept the Sri Lankans a well as the fans off their feet as their jaws dropped with every stroke that the talented batsman dished out.
He switched gears with ridiculous ease and everything that the Sri Lankans threw at him was dealt with disdain. Virat was like- Slower ball? ‘No problem, I’ll come down the track and deposit you over covers’ Yorker? ‘Hell! I’ll convert it into a full-toss and flick you on the on-side’ Bouncer? ‘No issues! I’ll bring out the pull shot’ Drop short? ‘I’ll rock back and cut you past backward point’
‘Lasith. you’re shattered’
Kohli was in the mood and not even Malinga- the great Lasith Malinga, the yorker-king Lasith Malinga- could stop him.
With the game slipping away, Mahela Jayawardene brought back his ace fast bowler Malinga with the hope that he would be able to put a lid on Virat’s mayhem.
What happened next was a brutal takedown of the great limited-overs bowler of all time. After flicking Malinga for a couple of runs towards the mid-wicket region to bring up his hundred, Kohli proceeded to obliterate the death-over specialist.
The next five balls of the 34th over read: 6,4,4,4 & 4. Everything that Malinga threw at him, it seemed like Virat already knew. Full-length delivery on his pads? He used his wrists and flicked them over deep square-leg. Malinga compensated his line, only to get creamed past covers.
By this time, Virat had got into Malinga’s head and it almost looked as if he had forced the fast bowler to bowl where he wanted him to. He dished the next three balls on his legs and every time the result was the same- Virat would walk across and flick it past fine-leg for a boundary.
Flicks? Check. Cover-drive? Check. Flick of a wrist? Check. Inside-out lofted drives? Check. 321 in 40 overs? "Lol! I'll get them in 36". Malinga? He's got a brick in his hand and I'll smash it into pieces and paint this ground with my strokes.
Virat. 133*. Hobart. 28-02-12. pic.twitter.com/w5HNej8ME6
— Yash Mittal 🇮🇳 (@im_yash2307) February 27, 2021
Ian Healy on commentary perfectly summed up the annihilation of Malinga at the hands of Virat Kohli when he said- “Lasith, you’re shattered”
Kohli wasn’t done that yet with Malinga. He smoked a ferocious cover-drive in his next over and just to further rub salt in his wounds, he brought up the winning runs with a disdainful straight-drive before letting out a guttural roar, loud enough to be heard by every cricket fan around the world.
The ‘Prince’ had transformed into a ‘King’ within a space of three hours and the baton from Sachin had been successfully passed to his heir apparent. His words on the night of April 02, 2011, had assumed immortal status.
Watch Virat Kohli’s 133* off 86 here:
#OnThisDay in 2012: Virat Kohli scored 133* off 86 as India chased 321 in 36.4 overs (needed to chase under 40 overs to get the bonus point). Scored 44 off 15 v Malinga.
After this knock he became the ODI vice captain for the Asia Cup pic.twitter.com/sbhajhVaCz
— Sarang Bhalerao (@bhaleraosarang) February 28, 2021