Friday (August 18) marks 15 years of Virat Kohli’s career in international cricket. Back in 2008, on this date, the former India captain and ODI cricket’s second highest century maker behind Sachin Tendulkar, made his international debut in an ODI match against Sri Lanka in Dambulla.
“We had belief in his commitment and dedication. But we never thought he will play so early,” said Vikas Kohli, Virat’s brother, to Patriot on Friday.
Kohli debuted in ODI cricket when he was only 19, just over two months short of 20.
Following a brief stay in top flight after debut, Kohli returned to international cricket after a gap of one year and soon took to it like fish to water. He became one of the icons of world cricket, carrying India with his bat and leadership, and for a long time, between taking over the Test captaincy from MS Dhoni in 2014 till he quit Test captaincy in January, 2022, became the biggest face, and often larger than life image, of Indian cricket.
Even today, he remains among the most discussed cricketers in world cricket.
“We did not have any doubt that he would last so long as player and even as captain,” added the older Kohli, who played a key role in the formative years of Virat.
The reason behind this belief Vikas says was, “his commitment, dedication and ‘never give up’ attitude”.
Kohli, who is now 34, has scored 46 ODI hundreds, just three less than Tendulkar. He is fifth in the list of top run-getters in the format with 12,898 runs. He also has 8,676 Test runs with 29 centuries. Kohli is currently the top run-getter in T20 International cricket with 4,008 runs.
Raj Kumar Sharma, his coach from childhood, spoke of his early talent.
“The amount of natural talent, the spark, I was sure he will make it big one day.
“It was his work ethic and hard work that took him this far. He was immensely talented and willing to work hard. For his age, he had tremendous power. He was very focussed on the fact that has to play for the country. He had that sort of attitude from the beginning,” he told Patriot.
Sharma recalled the day Kohli was not picked in the under-15 as a youngster.
“He was annoyed and sad; the fact that he was being called the best in Delhi and not picked. We had to console and motivate him. He made it a point to prove it (that he was the best).”
One of the things that Sharma is proud of and says stood out in Kohli early was his desperation to win.
“He doesn’t want to lose. He is a sort of a guy who wants to go all out and wants to win matches for his team.
“You can see how he led the team in his first Test as captain (vs Australia at Adelaide in 2014/15). India had to chase [close to] 400. But he went for the win [scoring an aggressive 141]. I have seen him do this right from the start when he was leading the club. No matter how big the opposition, or the score, he’d go for it. He’d say, ‘I will open and win the match’.”
Sharma said there’s still plenty left in him.
“The whole country saw what he did at the World T20 vs Pakistan.”