Even Virat Kohli was “pleasantly surprised” when he ended the wait for his 71st international ton with his first century in the T20 format in the Asia Cup 2022. The star batter reached the elusive three-figure mark after a gap of 1,020 days to help India end the competition with a crushing win over Afghanistan in Dubai. Kohli’s wretched run sparked a massive debate over his place in the side but he shrugged off his batting woes, scoring two successive half-centuries and then an unbeaten 122 off 61 balls in the continental tournament, which acts as a precursor to this year’s World T20 in Australia.
Former India head coach Ravi Shastri lavished praise on Kohli for getting over the dry run, which he feels would have “eating him up”. Kohli’s ton versus Afghanistan was his first international century since his 70th in a Test match in November 2019.
“You mentioned 1020 days, I can say 700 days I was in that dressing room when that happened. It’s a long time. The monkey is off his back now. When you had astounding success like he has when 70 hundreds come like this, then you go through a patch of one, two years, two-and-half years, two-and-three quarter years, and then everyday people start reminding – ‘It’s been that long’. He is human. It would have been eating him up. He would be getting up every morning, whether thinking of it or not, subconsciously being reminded,” Shastri said on Star Sports.
Shastri said Kohli will feel lighter mentally, now that the pressure of scoring a ton no longer exists. He pointed out how the mercurial player looked his usual self during the last 40 of his innings.
“Today, I think he will be five kilos less. Don’t ask me where the weight has gone from, five kilos less, at least from the head. You could see from the last 40 runs of his innings. It was Virat Kohli. His trademark shots, the confidence, the poise, the utter disdain for bowling is back. It took a long time coming,” ha added.
Talking at the presentation ceremony later, Kohli said he did not feel he was out of form despite his prolonged wait for a hundred. His 71st hundred puts him alongside the great Ricky Ponting in the list of most centuries. Sachin Tendulkar is still way ahead with 100 international tons under his belt.
“What actually surprised me was my 60s became failures, which was quite shocking for me. I was batting pretty well and contributing, but it didn’t seem to be good enough,” he said.
Kohli said the month-long break he took from the game this year did wonders for him and the team environment also helped. He also completed 24000 runs in international cricket and became the fastest cricketer to the feat, achieving it in his 522nd innings. He went past Sachin’s record of 543 innings and the only other India batter to reach the feat was current head coach Rahul Dravid.
“I went back to the drawing board, came back fresh, came back excited. The team management have also had great communication with me through these times, they’ve kept me very relaxed, kept my perspective right.”
“They said ‘you just bat and enjoy yourself’… So it was just a matter of getting back into the space of enjoyment,” Kohli added.