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Monday, June 24, 2024

Virat Kohli scores record-equalling century as India set Proteas a tough target

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Virat Kohli on Sunday made a 49th one-day international century, taking him level with Sachin Tendulkar’s all-time record, but he will remain wary of any comparisons with his fellow cricket icon.

Kohli, celebrating his 35th birthday, reached the milestone ton in his 277th innings, far quicker than Tendulkar’s 438 visits to the crease, in the Cricket Cup game against South Africa in Kolkata.

“Virat never played for records. They happened as he progressed,” Kohli’s biographer Vijay Lokapally told AFP.

“His batting skills and work ethic combined to create magic. Longevity leads to milestones and that is what Virat has inherited from stalwarts like Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar.”

Kohli has invoked a similar emotional response from cricket-crazy Indian and global fans that was once enjoyed by Tendulkar.

Kohli’s number 18 jersey has an overwhelming presence in Indian grounds.

With more than 26,000 international runs and a total of 79 centuries across three formats, comparisons with Tendulkar are obvious but Lokapally disagrees.

“He dislikes this comparison. He has his identity. Sachin Tendulkar has his. Their styles differ,” said Lokapally.

“Sachin has faced some ferocious bowlers. Virat has dominated too. Sachin is incomparable. If Virat is enjoying his cricket today it is because of the reputation Indian cricket acquired courtesy of Sachin Tendulkar.”

Former India batsman Mohammad Kaif said: “When Virat Kohli wants a 100, he gets it. So what if India needed just 169 to win when he came out to bat? Few understand the art of run-making in ODIs like him.”

India last won a global title with the 2013 Champions Trophy and their previous Cup victory came in 2011 under Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

‘Special feeling’

Kohli and teammate Ravichandran Ashwin were part of the winning team 12 years ago and he spoke about the emotions of playing at the 50-over showpiece.

“Just the two of us from 2011,” the former captain said after reaching his 48th ODI century against Bangladesh in Pune earlier in the Cup.

“It’s a special feeling playing at home, playing in front of all these people, we just want to make the most of it.”

Known to wear his heart on the sleeve, Kohli has never shied away from a battle on the field and despite his regular brush with controversies the star remains one of the most popular cricketers.

Fans invading the pitch to touch his feet and take selfies remain regular occurences at Indian venues.

He is also fabulously wealthy, leading India’s list of highest-paid athletes with earnings of $33.9 million mainly from brand endorsements, according to analysts Sportico’s 2022 list.

Kohli went through an extended lean patch that spread across since 2021, failing to reach three figures in over 1,000 days.

He quit as T20 skipper in late 2021 and was soon sacked from the ODI captaincy.

Kohli gave up leading the Test side too and later talked about his mental struggles during his dry phase, including how he had been “snappy” around his Bollywood actress wife Anushka Sharma.

Kohli hit his first hundred after a gap of 1,020 days in the 2022 T20 Cup and has not looked back.

“He is literally exceptional in every role in his life,” Anushka posted on Instagram to mark her husband’s birthday.

AFP

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