Skipper of the Indian cricket team across all formats, Virat Kohli is arguably one of the most talented batsmen to have graced the field in modern times. While he is still atop the ICC ODI rankings, Kohli faces stiff competition from Australia's Steve Smith in terms of the Test rankings, with both batsmen fighting it out for the top spot.
Making his Test debut in 2011, Kohli has risen up the ranks after a subpar start to his career in the longest format of the game. He has established himself as one of India’s best Test batsmen, with many of his knocks coming at crucial moments to rescue his team from an imminent loss.
There have been some key performances which have marked his rise to the top of the Test rankings, having made it to the ICC Test Team of the Year for three consecutive years. On this note, here is a list of top knocks by the Indian captain in the longest format of the game:
116 vs Australia, Adelaide Oval, January 2012
Kohli didn’t enjoy a fruitful start to his Test career unlike many of India’s other batting stalwarts. Having had to wait three years after his ODI debut to play a Test match, Kohli regularly featured in the middle order for India’s Test team. His first real shot to fame came against none other than Australia.
Australia were in fine form back then, with double centuries from Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke allowing the Aussies to score a mammoth 604 runs in their first innings. Having already lost the first three Tests of the series, the top order failed to perform yet again, with Kohli entering the field at the scoreboard reading 87/4. He played like a true professional Test batsman, showing glimpses of his future with India in the longest format.
With Wriddhiman Saha and then eventually Ishant Sharma providing the support, he completed a brilliant century. Although India lost the game by 298 runs, this innings marked the beginning of a legend for the Indian cricket team.
141 vs Australia, Adelaide Oval, December 2014
Australia’s Adelaide Oval has witnessed some of Virat Kohli’s finest performances with the bat. A couple of years after that innings against Australia, Kohli was at it again, scoring two important centuries in both innings of this Test match. That match was also a litmus test of Kohli’s prowess as skipper, with Dhoni omitted from the team due to an injury.
After Australia scored 517 in the first innings of the Test, Kohli led from the front with a brilliant 115, with India succumbing to 444 by the end of the innings. Aussie skipper Michael Clarke declared the second innings with the score reading 290/5, setting a target of 364 runs for India to seal the victory inside four sessions.
With Murali Vijay as support, Kohli went for the win, hitting a staggering 141 runs in 175 balls at a strike rate of 80.57. With no other support other than Vijay, India succumbed to a 48-run loss, with another legend of the game, Mitchell Johnson, bringing an end to Kohli’s innings. Heralded by many as the finest fourth-innings performance they had ever seen in Australia, Kohli himself rates this particular knock among the best in his Test career.
235 vs England, Wankhede, December 2016
By the time India played England in 2016, they were already the no. 1 Test team in the World, achieving success in West Indies and New Zealand. Having already staked his claim as a top-class batsman, it comes as no surprise that 2016 was a very high scoring year in Tests for the Indian skipper.
The England tour of India in 2016 was one such series which cemented his place among the greats of Test cricket.
With a total of 400 runs to chase in the first innings at Wankhede, the hosts started brightly with Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay. However, it was seemingly going downhill since, with India losing four wickets in 45 runs.
With India looking to go past the visitors’ score, Kohli found an unlikely partner in Jayant Yadav. The duo put up a 241 run-stand, the best 8th wicket partnership in Indian cricket history. By the end of the first innings, Kohli completed his third double century of the season, with Jayant also notching a ton.
After posting 631 runs for the visitors, India won the game by an innings and 36 runs. By the end of the year, the skipper broke a record set by two top Test batsmen, Donald Bradman and Rahul Dravid and became the first batsman ever to score double centuries in four consecutive series.
153 vs South Africa, Centurion, January 2018
Prior to the tour of South Africa, Virat Kohli was named in the World Test XI in 2017 for the first time. However, the year didn’t start so bright for India's Test team, after losing their first Test of 2018. Kohli also seemed out of sorts after being dismissed for 5 and 28 in the first Test of this series, adding pressure on the skipper and his team to turn things around at the Centurion.
In reply to South Africa‘s first innings score of 335, Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli were at it again, as the other Indian batsmen were unable to provide much support to their skipper. This did not seem to deter Kohli one bit, as he led from the front, completing his century while his teammates barely managed to cross the 50-run mark. However, a strong performance by AB de Villiers in the second innings sealed India’s fate, and the visitors eventually lost the match by 135 runs.
149 vs England, Birmingham, August 2018
2018 was a special year for Viral Kohli especially after he became the first Indian captain to win an ODI series in South Africa, overcoming the blues of the 1-2 series Test series loss to South Africa. Having decided to play county cricket in England as preparation of India's tour to England, he signed for Surrey but was ruled out due to a neck injury. However, he came back in time to return to the team for the series.
The first Test of the series was a testament to Kohli’s temperament, especially considering the fact that while chasing England’s 287, India had lost five wickets even before reaching 100 runs. The English bowlers had almost gotten the better of the Indians, but the skipper put up a brave fight to help his side. With no support from any of the top order, Kohli single-handedly scored 149 in a bid to get close to England’s total.
A key point here was the improvement he showed from India’s previous tour of England in 2014, where he averaged just 13.40 in 10 innings with a top score of 39. Kohli smashed a fantastic 149 runs in the first innings, but India were unable to chase down 194 runs in the fourth innings to lose the game by 31 runs. Once again, Kohli was India’s top scorer but was dismissed for 51.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Punit Paranjpe