Virat Kohli produced a stunning 79 at Cape Town
14th August, 2019 and 23rd November, 2019 might seem ordinary dates for most of the population, but for Virat Kohli and his fans, both hold extraordinary significance. As things stand, these aforementioned days are the last time Kohli scored an ODI and Test ton, respectively.
For further context, we are gripped by a COVID-19 pandemic at the moment – a pandemic that was nowhere in sight back then. MS Dhoni had still not retired from international cricket. Fans at the stadium were a constant feature and video calls were used sparingly and for pertinent occasions.
Marnus Labuschagne had only just stumbled upon the No.3 position in the Australian team. The Babar Azam-Kohli comparison was a sub-plot that was only fueled by the Pakistan faithful. And, more importantly, the current Indian Test skipper was still in his pomp.
Since then, a few of his shortcomings have been mercilessly exposed. He has had to battle the BCCI President’s (Sourav Ganguly) claims in press conferences. He has stepped down from T20I captaincy, been sacked as ODI captain and has seen his dressing-room influence being questioned in Test cricket as well.
None, though, have occupied as much of the Indian fans’ attention as his century drought – a drought that has stretched for more than two years and one that has, rather unwittingly, become the dominant theme whenever India and Kohli walk out onto the field.
Virat Kohli produced an exceptional knock at Cape Town
So much so that when the Indian captain crafted one of his best Test innings at Cape Town, many were quick to point out that he missed out on a Test hundred. Others weren’t so thoughtful and began criticizing those around him for not supporting the skipper in his final frontier conquest.
There were also some who went as far as saying that it was the Indian skipper against the South Africans at Cape Town. There was a bit of truth to it, considering how India’s illustrious middle order, comprising Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara crumbed, yet again. But for people to say it was 1v11 was a massive disservice to the bowling attack, which has single-handedly kept India afloat in the series.
But again, that was nothing in comparison to the sheer volume of queries surrounding Kohli’s unfulfilled promise of a Test hundred. In fact, if people were given only one question to ask between now and the end of their lives, they wouldn’t ask when the COVID-19 pandemic would end or when world peace would be attained. Instead, it would revolve around Kohli and when he would….wait for it….score a century.
Now, though, having seen his exemplary performance at Cape Town, there might actually be an answer on the horizon – an answer that countless individuals have been craving for and one that might finally quench the thirst of a century-hungry country. But let’s make it clear, it isn’t an answer that’s very straightforward.
Ever since the media began hyping up Kohli’s lack of three-figure scores, it has become an unnecessary burden on everyone involved. There is a very minute chance that the Indian skipper pays heed to such conversations but it is a thought that might just have snuck into a corner of his mind because, well, that’s what everyone is talking about.
In that process, the cricketing community in India has actually forgotten to appreciate the good things he has done in 2020 and 2021. There weren’t many, mind you. But the knocks at Cape Town (in January 2022) and Chennai (February 2021) arguably rank a lot better than some of the Test tons he has scored. That, though, doesn’t suit the century narrative so it’ll quickly be thrown by the wayside.
The other downside to being so obsessed with the individual achievement of a solitary cricketer – that too in a team game, is that his teammates would, eventually, start feeling the pinch.
Is there any reason why Washington Sundar missing out on Test centuries, despite his father trying to make a big deal of it, shouldn’t be given enough limelight? Were Rishabh Pant and Shubman Gill’s displays at the Gabba not worthwhile because they didn’t breach the 100-run barrier? And, what about the bowlers, who have carried the Indian team for the past two years?
This entire century campaign has actually made people believe that there is an urgent need to read between the lines – an urgent need to understand who is not happy with Kohli not getting a ton and who is delighted that the Indian skipper’s drought is continuing. In fairness, this will not even cross these cricketers’ minds. For those on the outside, though, it is a lifetime’s worth of gossip.
Speaking singularly of Kohli, it is perhaps time that we cut him a bit of slack, at least on the century front. The right criticism of him in recent times would be that he has not scored the adequate number of runs you would want from your best batter in the team. The accusation shouldn’t be that he doesn’t have enough three-figure scores in the past couple of years. That just doesn’t make sense.
Social media was abuzz with Kohli missing out on a hundred
It could also be one of the primary reasons why he isn’t getting past that hurdle. India is so busy obsessing with him doing so that everyone has conspired to jinx it. Again, it feels superficial to blame things on jinxes when Kohli continues wafting outside off stump.
But it certainly adds an unnecessary layer of pressure, especially for someone of his ilk, who just doesn’t have to think about how his side functions but also has to take into account what an individual sitting in an air-conditioned room in South Delhi feels he should’ve done to break his century drought.
Kohli, by the way, also seems someone who would take it up as a personal mission to overcome the lull that he has gone through lately. In the process, though, he might just want it a tad more and he might, rather unknowingly, make himself less capable of actually accomplishing that feat – something Dale Steyn brought to light before the World Test Championship final against New Zealand.
So, it seems that we may have finally cracked the code for understanding when the Indian captain will notch up his next international ton. It will not happen by constantly blabbering about it on social media or by posting stuff that the former Royal Challengers Bangalore captain has done in the past. It will come about only by letting Kohli and his century drought meander to its destined conclusion. And, if history can be used as an indicator, it will end at some point.
As a nation, it is high time we stopped obsessing over something that will inevitably be achieved by the Indian captain. Over the past couple of years, India has been guilty of it, make no mistake about it. So much so that we have conveniently ignored the few decent things Kohli has done with the bat and completely forgotten what those around him have also done.
Before 2020, life was good. Not because COVID-19 wasn’t a thing and fans were still flocking sports arenas. But because an entire nation wasn’t wasting its energy in something it doesn’t have any control over.
Kohli knows he has not gotten an international century and you can be pretty sure he wants to break that particular hoodoo. It doesn’t make sense then to keep reminding him, does it?