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Happy Birthday Virat Kohli: The King is back

As Virat Kohli celebrates his birthday today, there’s something different in the air. Just like there’s something different about Kohli. This could well be him hitting his peak once again, making up for three years’ worth of lost time.

Happy Birthday Virat Kohli: The King is back
Happy Birthday Virat Kohli: The King is back

Happy Birthday Virat Kohli: The King is back, making up for lost time with a World Cup to remember

Virat Kohli has celebrated his previous two birthdays very differently, quietly. Usually on the road, in 2020, Kohli’s birthday was more about him embarking on a new chapter in life – fatherhood. With his wife Anushka Sharma bearing the couple’s first child, probably for the first time in his life, Virat’s birthday, to him, was more about someone else. The year later, in 2021, Kohli found himself in arguably the lowest phase of his career in and around his birthday.

Two days after he had turned 33, India were knocked out of the T20 World Cup – in his last tournament as T20I captain. If this wasn’t hurting enough, a little over a month later, the BCCI informed Kohli that he was no longer needed as India’s ODI captain. For India’s most decorated batter of the last decade, this wasn’t the birthday gift Kohli was expecting.

Happy Birthday Virat Kohli: The King is back
Happy Birthday Virat Kohli: The King is back

Happy Birthday Virat Kohli: The King is back form in asia cup

To make things worse, Kohli, who had by then gone without a century for two years, was now struggling to register double-digit scores, let alone fifties. When 2022 began, the belief was that Kohli the champion would shrug off poor form, but things took a turn for the worse.

The Test average dropped below 50 for the first time as a record-obsessed nation witnessed Kohli’s fall from grace… their superhero, their King reduced to being a mortal. The man who would once conjure hundreds for fun, was now looking at the heavens, almost questioning, “How many new ways are you going to find to get me out?” in a heart-breaking sight during the IPL. Runs dried up and form eluded him.

Happy Birthday Virat Kohli: The King is back
Happy Birthday Virat Kohli: The King is back

But as the old adage goes, ‘Tough times come with an expiration date’; and although in Kohli’s case Happy Birthday Virat Kohli: The King is back , it lasted longer than anyone ever envisioned it to be, that phase is over. On his 34th birthday, the Kohli of old has returned, and he is back to claim his throne. In what could possibly be his last T20 World Cup, Kohli is burning up the charts. With over 200 runs in four matches at a Bradman-esque average of 220, Kohli is putting on a show to remember, as he did in the Asia Cup, where he emerged as India’s leading run-scorer of the tournament with 273 runs.

Happy Birthday Virat Kohli: The King is back
Happy Birthday Virat Kohli: The King is back

 So far, all three Kohli innings have cut a contrasting figure. Against Pakistan, Kohli started slowly batting cautiously on 12 of 21, before entering GOD-mode, whereas in the game against the Netherlands, he showed what the ideal batting template should be like on a sluggish pitch. When he came to bat in the game against Bangladesh, Kohli made his intentions very clear – to go after the bowling and he did so with sheer confidence.

Happy Birthday Virat Kohli: The King is back Four months back in England, nothing that Kohli was trying out was working. Today, he can’t put a foot wrong. This is the same guy who struggled to score a run.Imagine.The Kohli of 2016 remains unmatched, whereas 2017 and 2018 were an extension of the same.

But after those three manic years, if any version of Kohli comes the closest to displaying the same class, authority and conviction, this is it. It may have taken Virat time to put the entire Sourav Ganguly and captaincy saga on the backburner, but now that he has, Kohli has an almost surreal and monk-like calmness about him, not a trait synonymous with him.For the longest time, Kohli was India’s successor to the great Sachin Tendulkar, not only in terms of superstardom but batting accolades as well.

In August of 2019, when Kohli had peeled off his 43rd ODI century, it seemed as if it was only a matter of time before the mighty Tendulkar was displaced from the top. Three years later, the world is still waiting. Truth be told, it may not happen anymore.

At 34, with Kohli no longer the captain and given the importance of workload management, six centuries may be a bridge too far to cross for the talismanic star batsman. But the silver lining in all of this is that it gives a whole new perspective to Kohli and what he and his career is about. Records were never this thing, and even if he doesn’t eclipse Tendulkar, Kohli’s legacy will still be that of the greatest India batsman and Test captain of this era.

For a moment, even if we are to keep the remarkable things Kohli has done in this World Cup aside, so much more about Virat the batsman comes to the fore. Forget the near-impossible six off Haris Rauf, the three half-centuries, or the aggression-filled facial expressions, Kohli looks so much at peace.

When he was going through a lull, one of the staggering aspects about Kohli’s batting was his unusual lapse in concentration. When Kohli was in full flow prior to the decline, once he had crossed a fifty, a century was pretty much guaranteed. But somehow, between 2020 and June of 2022, Kohli was frequently getting dismissed between 50 and 100, which was highly concerning. Fast forward to now, Virat has hardly played a false stoke – no error, no dropped catches. Just pure class, the class of Kohli.

Outside the field as well, Kohli appears a lot relaxed. He no longer gets agitated with repeated selfie requests – in Australia, Kohli has instead urged people to come up to him and get pictures clicked… stills where Kohli is smiling more than the person with him.

Then there is his newly-rediscovered friendship with captain Rohit Sharma and the blossoming bromance with Suryakumar Yadav. As someone who has had second thoughts about asking Kohli the tough questions in press conferences after an India defeat, watching this Zen-like of Virat has given this writer the confidence to break his hesitation.

India next play on Sunday, but fans have already gathered in Melbourne in numbers,  Happy Birthday Virat Kohli: The King is back hoping to get a view of their icon on his special day. Don’t be surprised if Kohli makes an SRK-like appearance. But while he consumes all the adulation coming his way on his birthday, Virat is would be aware of the bigger picture – the game against Zimbabwe, which if India win, will assure them of a place in the semi-finals.

Kohli was 22, young and full of promise, when India won the 2011 World Cup. 11 years on, he is a legend and one of the biggest sporting icons in the world. Kohli has been part of eight ICC tournaments – some of which he captained – but barring one, India have endured heartbreaks in all.

This time around though, there’s something different in the air. Just like there s something different about Kohli. This could well be him hitting his peak once again, making up for three years’ worth of lost time. Happy Birthday Virat Kohli: The King is back  And what a redemption story it would culminate into if the King gives India its World Cup crown in front of a packed MCG.

Happy Birthday, Virat. And welcome back, we missed you!

 

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