Virat Kohli, in a chat with Steve Smith, shed light on the embryonic stages of his international career and singled out the 79* in the 2009 Champions Trophy as a turning point. Kohli, who bagged the Man of the Match award in that game, revealed that it gave him the belief that he could make it big.
Virat Kohli walked into international cricket with quite the reputation after successfully leading India to the U19 World Cup title in 2008, but while he showed promise, his first year at the top level was underwhelming. Despite getting starts and showing sparks, a trademark performance evaded him, often leaving fans, who knew of the rich vein of talent he possessed, frustrated.
However, all that and more changed in just the 9th ODI of his career, in the 2009 Champions Trophy against the West Indies. Chasing a meagre 130, a 20-year-old Kohli walked in with India in trouble, at 12/2, and against a rampant Kemar Roach, but he weathered the storm like a seasoned veteran and took the side over the line, striking an impeccable 79*. The knock would eventually turn out to be a watershed moment in Kohli’s career, which would take off soon after.
“It was the game against the West Indies at Johannesburg. I was waiting padded up, and the first ball I got was from Kemar Roach at 153 clicks. I was like, ‘How the hell am I gonna ever score runs at this level?,’ Kohli told Smith.
“I got hit on the bicep the first ball, but then I got a slower ball on the second and hit it for four. From thereon I scored 80 odd not out (79), it was my first Man of the Match as well, then I thought ‘If I can do this more often, surely I can go on for a long time.’”
Kohli would strike multiple tons post that outing in Johannesburg in the years to come, but none would match the audacity of his 133* against Sri Lanka in Hobart. With India needing to chase chase 321 under 40 overs to stay alive in the CB series, Kohli went into ‘God mode’ and played what many consider the greatest ODI knock of all time - an 86-ball 133 against a Lankan attack that comprised Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Rangana Herath.
Kohli reminisced about the Hobart ton and said that it made him realize that he could own the international stage.
“Hobart was really the start of me feeling ‘Now I can probably go on and play the way I want to play at this level’. That really gave me the confidence. I thought if I could do this against the likes of Malinga, surely I can keep doing this more and more,” he said.
But despite the Hobart ton being close to his heart, Kohli did not rate it as his favourite. When asked which knocks he cherished the most, Kohli picked the 183 against Pakistan in the Asia Cup the same year, and the 82* he struck against Australia in Mohali in WT20 2016. Kohli described the Mohali innings as a ‘never before, never again’ knock and claimed that he went into a trance during his stay at the middle.
“The one knock which was more special to me was a month after, in the Asia Cup against Pakistan where I got 183. That really indicated to me that my career is going somewhere I wanted it to go. My most favorite is the T20 we played in Mohali (WT20 2016). I went into a trance. I still don’t understand how it happened - everything I was hitting went into gaps. I went into a zone I couldn’t break down after.”