Photo Credit: ICC
Virat Kohli’s rise from promising young talent to the figurehead of Indian cricket has seen him take over from legend after legend.
His debut was in place of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag and he followed MS Dhoni as captain.
Since then, he has been incomparable.
Kohli made his ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup debut in 2011 as the second youngest member of India’s victorious squad at just 22 – though he had already made 45 ODI appearances by the start of the tournament, such was the regard with which he was held in.
His India debut did not foreshadow what was to come, Kohli dismissed for just 12 against Sri Lanka, but it did not take him long to make an impact and he brought up a maiden half-century in his fourth game.
A first hundred came over a year later but the Delhi native had to be patient and wait for the absence of some Indian greats to nail down a place in the side.
Kohli came in for a rested Tendulkar during a tri-nation ODI tournament at the start of 2010, seizing his opportunity with another century.
Away from the pitch, Kohli was something of a conundrum but for his captain at the time, Dhoni, the team liked Kohli just the way he was.
He said: “It’s important for him to be himself. You have to show off what you are and he has matured now.
“To us, he comes as a humble guy. He might come across differently to the world.
“Being a good human being is important, but it can come later, what’s important now is that he [Kohli] scores on the field.”
Kohli ended the year as India’s leading run-scorer in ODIs with an average of 47.38 and with it came a spot in the 2011 World Cup squad on home soil.
He set the tone with a century in the tournament’s opening game before rebuilding with Gambhir in the final following the early departures of Sehwag and Tendulkar, making 35 to help India on the path to an historic triumph.
From there, a Test debut came and emboldened by a brief stint as ODI captain in 2013, scoring a century in just his second match as skipper, Kohli began to break records.
Against Australia, he hit the fastest ODI century by an Indian and fastest against the Aussies, reaching three figures from just 52 balls.
A first century as Test captain followed in 2014, Australia again the opponents, while standing in for Dhoni before taking over the reins full-time mid-way through the series.
Captaincy requires the shouldering of expectations, the weight of the nation rests with you and when the nation totals hundreds of millions of people, the weight could be unbearable.
But for Kohli, it was a spark for some of the greatest years of his career.
In 2016 and 2017, he scored a double century across four consecutive Test series, overtaking a record held by Don Bradman and Rahul Dravid.
No one could keep up with Kohli. He was awarded the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for ICC Men’s Cricketer of the Year in 2017, repeating the feat the next year.
His trophy cabinet was further filled in 2018, with ICC Men’s Test Player of the Year and ICC Men’s ODI Player of the Year gongs, also being named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People.
During this time, Kohli passed 10,000 ODI runs, the fastest man to that milestone, achieving the feat in 54 fewer innings than the previous quickest, Tendulkar.
A downturn in form ultimately culminated in him stepping down first from the T20 captaincy, then ODIs and finally Tests.
But the old saying about form being temporary and class permanent rang true as he scored his first hundred in 1020 days in 2022, smashing 122 runs from 61 deliveries against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup for his first T20I century.
The King was back, and the fired-up youngster of his early years was replaced by a beaming father figure.
He said: “The last two and a half years have taught me a lot.
“Those angry celebrations are a thing of the past.
“I have had many suggestions, lots of advice has come my way; people were telling me I was doing this wrong, that wrong.
“I picked out all the videos from the best time I had, same initial movement, same approach towards the ball and it was just what was happening inside my head, I wasn’t able to explain it to anyone.”
Kohli has since passed 500 games for India and his career is coming close to completing a full revolution as the tournament that put him and the rest of the 2011 squad into folklore returns to India’s shores.
Kohli is the sole successful player from the class of 12 years ago to be part of India’s squad this time around. To complete the circle, both he and India will hope he ends the 2023 edition holding the trophy again.