New Delhi: Two months ago, he was still enjoying his wedding fixtures, while his teammates were gearing up for a gruelling Test series against South Africa in the Rainbow Nation. History portrayed India as a beatable force, although a splendid 2017 on home turf couldn’t be written off. For Virat Kohli, he was up for his first ‘real test’, as cricket pundits had claimed. His crammed hat failed to find that feather of a century on Proteas soil. Two months hence, the Indian skipper not only ended up as the top scorer in the Tests and in the ODI series, but also has for centuries to his name in the Rainbow Nation, three of which fashioned much of India’s historic 5-1 ODI series win. But that too doesn’t seem to be enough for Kohli as he now stands on the brink of another major milestone. Standing just 18 runs short, the Indian skipper will become the first Indian batsman to breach the 2000-run mark in T20I format if he manages to carve another masterful innings at the Centurion in the second match on Wednesday.
After leading his side to an impelling victory on a “challenging” Johannesburg track, Kohli notched up his 33rd ODI ton to steer India past the Durban jinx with little assistance from the wrist-spin duo – Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. The 29-year-old continued his stellar form in the format to carve a blistering innings of 160 runs in Newlands, as he tumbled down Sachin Tendulkar’s record to claim the title of highest score by an Indian batsman on Proteas soil in ODIs. And with an unbeaten score of 129 runs in the final ODI match, Kohli ended the series with 558 runs (the only Indian to notch up three tons in a bilateral series).
Last Sunday, Kohli was 44 runs short of the mark and was on course to notch up the mark, until Tabraiz Shamsi outfoxed the 29-year-old in the 10th over of India’s innings. Shamsi went in for a little uppish in length, placing it in line with the middle stump. Kohli was looking to fend it off towards long-on for a single, but was beaten by the length and deceived by the extra bit of turn as the ball hit his pad in line with middle and leg.
Team India on Wednesday, will be back for the second T20I and that leaves Kohli with yet another opportunity at hand. The Delhi Dasher stands just 18 runs short of the 2000-run mark in the shortest format of the game. If he manages to score the run, he will be the first Indian batsman to breach the milestone and third overall after New Zealand opener Martin Guptill (2188 runs) and his former teammate Brendon McCullum (2140 runs).
Adding to it, Kohli notched up 286 runs in the Test series, 558 runs in the ODIs and 26 runs in the first T20I, which sums up to 870 runs. Thus, Kohli is 130 runs short of completing 1000 runs on this Tour of South Africa and has three opportunities in hand.