On Thursday evening in Dubai, Virat Kohli ended a wait of 1019 days to score his 71st international century – equalling Ricky Ponting’s tally – and breaking the long rut he’s endured over the last two and a half years. The knock, he’d later admit, had left him a bit shocked as T20 was a format he least expected to break the deadlock with. He got to triple-figures with a big pull shot off Fareed Ahmed that sailed over the deep midwicket boundary and had rather muted celebrations with a smile and a bat-raise around the ground.
“I think that celebration was more a relief,” KL Rahul, his skipper on the night, said in the post-match press conference.
At the innings break, Kohli spoke of having learnt a lot through this lean phase of his that has lasted over two years, while Rahul explained how the former captain’s mindset hasn’t wavered even in troubled times.
“There was no difference to his mindset, attitude and work-ethic in the last 2-3 years, or before that when he used to score 100s every second game. There’s been no difference in the way he prepares for the game, or the attitude towards representing the country and winning matches for his team. The desire and the passion he’s had has always remained the same,” Rahul said.
Rahul also explained how Kohli’s ability to remain in the moment and show a lot of patience – particularly through the tough period – was a learning for the team as well, and that Thursday’s outcome that came after a long wait wasn’t one bit surprising for those in the dressing room.
“I think we’re also very obsessed with numbers – only if centuries are being hit, a batter is considered to be in form – but his contributions in the last 2-3 years were phenomenal. He’s still the top-2 or top-3 run-getters in white-ball cricket in the last two or three years,” Rahul said.
“As a player, you always want to be perfect or challenge yourself. You run behind excellence. He’s always been that player. Even during this [lean] phase, he’s remained in the moment, he’s worked hard on his game, he’s remained patient – and that’s been a big learning for us in the group that these ups and downs are a part of every player’s career and how you remain balanced in your mindset, how you can focus on what’s in front of you today.
“I think he’s done that [focus on simple things] brilliantly over the last couple of years and in that dressing room none of us are surprised with what he’s done. I am sure this will give him even more confidence – not that he needed confidence, but he will obviously cherish this 100 and it’ll build great confidence around the group as well,” Rahul added.