The ascent of Virat Kohli in IPL
Be it while flicking through television channels, scrolling through your social media feed or flipping through a news daily, you're bound to find a mention of the current Indian skipper, more often than not! Virat Kohli's career is the sort of stuff dreams are made up of. Having tasted enormous success in all three formats of the game while wearing his nation's jersey, Kohli's achievements in the Indian Premier League (IPL) invoke great respect, if not wide-eyed adulation. So let's see how the journey has been for the dashing 29-year-old in the high-octane T20 league.
Initial years in the IPL
Five years after the Twenty-20 format had officially found a foothold in the cricketing world, India came up with its own version of the shortest version of the game. The Indian Premier League (IPL). Adorned with oodles of glitz, glamour and thrill, the trophy-hunt quickly gathered steam after being conceived in 2008. A young Kohli had only recently captained the Indian U-19 side to a World Cup victory and was being touted as the next big thing of Indian Cricket. It was only natural that he'd be lapped up into IPL and it was the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), who called dibs on him.
However, is it easy for a 19-year old youngster to not be sucked into the dangerous whirlpool of money and ecstasy? Kohli realised soon enough that it wasn't. Reports emerged that projected him as a notoriously brash kid, more interested in after-parties than the matches itself. Kohli managed to score just 165 runs in 13 matches at a deplorable average of 15.00 in the season. The 2009 and 2010 outings were equally grim, where he accrued just 246 and 307 runs respectively from 16 matches apiece. In such a scenario, Kohli found himself on the verge of being obliterated from the international scenario. Thankfully for Cricket fans, good sense prevailed on the young man and as he's often admitted himself, Kohli found his way back with immense help and equally strict overseeing of his coach, Rajkumar Sharma.
The redemption phase
After having consolidated his feet in international cricket with his classical cover drives and wristy flick shots in the 2011 World Cup, it was once again time for Virat Kohli to examine his luck in the IPL. This time around, he did not fail the red and gold jersey as he slammed 557 runs in 16 games, including 4 half-centuries; an effort that partially helped take the RCB to the finals. This was the game-changing moment for King Kohli, the rung of the ladder from where there was no looking back.
The following years saw Kohli mature as a player. Be it Tests or ODIs, he learned from his mistakes and went from strength to strength, delighting his fans worldwide. In spite of having an abysmal tour of England in 2014, he came back stronger and underwent coaching lessons from the master, Sachin Tendulkar himself, to correct his batting techniques and foot movement skills. This sign of sheer dedication and commitment to the game is what he brings to the table and how could that not up his game in the IPL, too?
Credit must be given to the RCB team management that stuck to Kohli through thick and thin, with an uncanny sense that this budding talent would reap them tons of benefits in the years to come. Although Kohli oscillated between good and average seasons in 2012 to 2015, where he compiled 364, 634, 359 and 505 runs respectively, the 2016 season became a defining period of his cricketing career. After being named the captain of the side in 2014, Kohli had visibly been itching to take RCB to greater heights. Turns out, 2016 was to be the year!
'King Kohli' has arrived in town
Virat Kohli went into the 2016 edition of the IPL with no T20 centuries to his name and ended the tournament with 4 centuries in his kitty. He went on to win the Player of the Series for his contribution of 973 runs with the bat at a whopping average of 81.08 but that was not his biggest achievement. With RCB having lost frontline pacer, Mitchell Starc to a fracture in his left foot, the team was reeling under the urgency to put up mammoth runs on the board and chase down even bigger totals to stay alive in the race.
It was in such a situation that Kohli put up his hand and lead his team as a true captain. What made his effort even more mind-boggling is that he had suffered a split webbing in his left palm while fielding against the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). With 8 stitches, he took the field against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in a must-win encounter at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru and what ensued was one of the most exquisite T20 knocks of all times. Scoring 113 runs off just 50 balls, an emotional Kohli was captured by the cameras tapping his left palm after reaching his century. A symbol of how duty exceeds pain, of how a drive to lead your team to victory arms you with unimaginable powers, an absolute example of grit and determination.
Although RCB lost to Surisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the finals of 2016 and the proceedings of the 2017 IPL didn't count as fond memories, the team balance is stronger than ever this time around. With just a few days remaining for the sensational tournament to kick-off, Virat Kohli, who was retained by RCB for a historical price of INR 17 crores, remains one of the most exciting players to watch out for. His ascent in the IPL has indeed been meteoric, but it has been anything but a change occurring. The inherent cricketing genius of the Indian captain, coupled with his never-back-down attitude and relentless dedication to the sport in the brewing concoction of success that has made him the indomitable 'King Kohli'!