On Thursday in Dubai, Virat Kohli ended his and all of India’s wait for his 71st century, the wait that had extended for 1020 days and 81 international innings. The former India skipper clattered 122* runs off 61 balls against Afghanistan, en route smashing 12 fours and 6 sixes to glitter up the bull ring in Dubai.
With skipper Rohit Sharma being rested, Kohli opened the batting alongside KL Rahul. After a conservative start, the 33-year-old stepped on the paddle to reach his fifty in the 11th over. From the 14th over, Kohli accelerated like he used to in his heydays and went from 60 off 41 balls to 100 off 53 balls ending up with 122 off 61.
Virat Kohli equals Ricky Ponting’s 71 international centuries record
After the game, Kohli spoke with Rohit in an interview for the BCCI, wherein the skipper asked the former skipper to talk about his exceptional knock.
Rohit asked: “Many many congratulations for your 71st hundred. All of India was waiting; and I’m sure, more than India you were waiting. Yours today’s innings was important as we finished with a win. You found the gaps, played good shots, targeted the bowlers. So talk through your innings.”
Kohli said he’d had a chat with Rahul Dravid, the head coach, a few days before the game about a big improvement that he needed to make in his game: accelerating in the middle overs, that would, in turn, also help the side’s eventual total.
Kohli replied: “Personally, after returning from my biggest break [of more than a month] in 12-13 years, wherein I didn’t even touch the bat. So, a lot of things got into the right perspective. After that, the communication was clear from you and the management to let me play with freedom. So the space you guys provided me was crucial to me. I felt relaxed when I came back; I was excited to contribute, moreover because of the upcoming World Cup where I want to contribute.
“3-4 days back Rahul Dravid had spoken with me about planning the innings while batting first – about improving my strike rate in the middle phase of the innings. So my only goal before the Asia Cup was to help my game improve in regard to the overall team’s point of view.”
Kohli’s maiden T20I century, in tandem with 62 from KL Rahul, meant India posted a mammoth total of 212/2, which Afghanistan fell 101 runs short of as Bhuvneshwar Kumar bagged a five-wicket haul.
Failing to reach the final of the Asia Cup 2022, Indian players will return home. They will host Australia and South Africa for white-ball matches before flying out to Australia for the T20 World Cup.