New Delhi: On Saturday, Virat Kohli will turn 28. On the eve of his birthday, we bring you the highlights of a brilliant 365-day cycle, in which Kohli established himself as the ultimate superstar of the game, even threatening the legacy left behind by some of the greatest, including that of Sachin Tendulkar.
Against South Africa in November, December 2015
Kohli's cycle of 365 days started in a rather ominous fashion. On his 27th birthday, he barely lasted five minutes in the centre, and was dismissed by Kagiso Rabada for 1 off 5 balls, in Mohali. Despite his failure in both the Innings, India won the 1st Test against South Africa by 108 runs, and thus set the tone for a series victory. The venue, later, went on to become one of his favourites.
India won the four-match Freedom Series – dedicated to the peace giants of humanity, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela – 3-0. The series will be remembered for the emergence of Kohli, the skipper. He produced only one fifty in six innings, but the lack of form was made up by astute leadership.
In Australia, January 2016
India traveled to Australia for a five-match ODI and three-match T20Is series. The limited overs' tour proved a boon for Kohli, as he helped the team to a rare series win Down Under, in T20Is. But his individual form was unrivaled. In the five ODIs, he scored in a sequence of 91, 59, 117, 106 and 8. India lost 4-1, but he left an indelible mark on record books.
In the T20Is, his scores were 90*, 59* and 50; and nobody has ever scored more than two fifties in a bilateral series. India blanked Aussies 3-0 to become the first and only team to whitewash Australia in Australia in a three-match series of any format.
Asia Cup in February, March and April 2016
The T20I series in Australia series served as the perfect warm-up for the dual ICC sanctioned tournaments — Asia Cup and World Twenty20 for the Indian run machine.
Kohli carried his rich T20 form to Bangladesh, helping India win the continental title with his bat. He was the mainstay of the campaign, and returned as the highest scorer for the team. His 153 in seven innings came at an average of over 76 at a strike rate of more than 110. But his most important innings in the tournament was unbeaten 41 off 28 balls in the final against a noisy hosts. He and skipper MS Dhoni chased down the 121-run target with ease, reaching the target inside 14th over.
Then, the competition shifted to global stage with India hosting the ICC World Twenty20. MS Dhoni & Co lost in the semis to West Indies in Mumbai, but the tournament will always be remembered as the Kohli-show.
India started the campaign with a shocked defeat to New Zealand in Nagpur, with Kohli scoring 23. It somehow ignited the star batsman, and he went on to score 55* vs Pakistan in Kolkata, 24 vs Bangladesh in Bangalore, 82* vs Australia in Mohali – which many considered as one of the greatest knocks ever, 89* against the Windies in Mumbai.
He was the second highest scorer with 273 runs at an average of 136.50. Bangladesh's Tamim Iqbal managed 295 at an average of 73.75.
Indian Premier League: April, May 2016
The legend continued to grow as Kohli dominated cricket's most lucrative tournament, the Indian Premier League (IPL) in a Bradmanesque fashion. The Royal Challengers Bangalore captain hit four hundreds to score 973 runs in 16 innings, with the help of 83 fours and 38 sixes. He and South African AB de Villiers helped the team to the final, only to suffer a heartbreaking 8-run defeat to David Warner's Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Kohli's scoring sequence of the year till the final from the start of the new year was: 90*, 59*, 50, 7, 49, 56*, 41*, 23, 55*, 24, 82*, 89*, 75, 79, 33, 80, 100*, 14, 52, 108*, 20, 7, 109, 75*, 113, 54, 0 and 54.
In West Indies: July, August 2016
After the World Cup and IPL heartbreaks, Kohli sought redemption in the Caribbean Islands, and there he led the Indian Test team to a 2-0 win in the four-match series. And Kohli, as expected, returned as the top scorer of the series. He also hit his first Test double hundred in the first match at North Sound. A probable clean sweep was denied by a bad weather and poor ground maintenance.
India cricket board agreed to a hurriedly arrange two-match Twenty20 International series in Lauderhill as a part of cricket's outreach to United States of America. There, Kohli failed, scoring 16 in the first match. The second match was called-off and India lost the series 1-0.
New Zealand series September, October 2016
Men in Blue returned to India, as they began a long and arduous home season with a five-match Test series against New Zealand. India blanked the Kiwis with Kohli stamping his authority in the team. And in the process, India reclaimed the number one ranked Test side in the world. India had briefly occupied the top spot in the West Indies, only to see Pakistan claiming the 'mace' after the England series.
In the Kiwi Test series, Kohli hit his second double hundred at Indore. His contribution with the bat in the series was only 309 runs, but he more than made up with is brilliant leadership.
Then came the ODIs. MS Dhoni returned to the team and Kohli returned to his deputy role. And once again, Kohli proved why he is the best batsman, at least in limited overs.
He started with a fluent 85 at Dharamsala, then a disappointing 9 in Delhi, then a superlative 154* at Mohali. He put up 45 in a losing cause in Ranchi, before anchoring India's chase with a classic 65.
India won the series 3-2. Good series, and India's new batting machine took a well deserving break. Superstars also need timely breaks, and more importantly, a look back, some introspection on how the cycle has been.
For Kohli, it's been one hell of a record breaking cycle.