Virat Kohli flicked a Nathan Lyon delivery through forward square for a single and reached his 28th Test century – the first since November 23, 2019.
The celebrations were subdued. Sporting a broad smile, Kohli took off his helmet, raised the bat and kissed his wedding ring that was dangling to a chain around his neck.
As the crowd chanted his name at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Sunday and his team-mates gave him a standing ovation, an unfazed Kohli cut out the noise. He wore the helmet again and went back to the crease in a manner as if nothing had happened!
It took the erstwhile India captain 1205 days to reach a century since scoring his last against Bangladesh in the Pink-ball Test in Kolkata.
Over the last three years and three months, a lot had changed – the world survived a COVID-19 pandemic and a lockdown, Kohli became a father and also gave up his captaincy from all formats – but his team-mates knew that it was only a matter of time before he got the monkey off his back.
And, there were clear indications, too.
Earlier this year, Kohli became the fastest batter to record 25,000 runs in international cricket during the second Test against Australia in New Delhi. He created the record in 492 innings, overtaking Sachin Tendulkar by 28 innings (577 inns in total) to become the fastest-ever to the feat.
But his millions of fans waited patiently to see their beloved hero scoring yet another century after, what seemed like, ages!
It was, obviously, one of the slowest ton by Kohli – that came in 241 balls – on a surface that was not easy to bat on compared to the first three days. But Kohli banked on his solid defence and played some classy shots to reach the three-digit mark at ease, despite India losing Ravindra Jadeja cheaply early on in the day.
While loud cheers from the stands indicated how much the fans enjoyed Kohli’s feat, there was some sort of celebration at the media centre, too, with the local organisers distributing ice creams to the travelling scribes for some ‘muh mitha’, marking the special occasion.
In a country where cricket is not just a game, everyone had a thing or two to share about Kohli and what wasn’t working for him in the lean phase. And as the 34-year-old joined Sunil Gavaskar, becoming second batter to score most-number of Test centuries against Australia (8) – just three behind the chart-topper Sachin Tendulkar – it certainly was a Sunday to remember for the cricketing fraternity.
From November 23, 2019 to March 12, 2023 – Virat Kohli, indeed, came a long, long way!