It was the first Test of the tour of Australia in 2014. MS Dhoni had pulled out of the match due to injury. But the team doesn’t need to look any further than its Vice-Captain to lead them into the graveyard of South Asian cricket teams.
Any other captain leading a side that had lost 4-0 in its previous tour down under would be slightly cautious going into the game. Not Kohli, though, even when Australia won the toss and elected to bat on a pitch that was bound to play tricks on the 5th day.
The Steve Smith-led side amassed 517 on board. No way, they were gonna lose from there. Except Kohli and company had other ideas. The Indian team scored 444 on the back of a century from its new skipper.
The match was thought to be in balance but David Warner’s second innings century meant India had to chase 364 on the last day of a track that was spinning square. The crowd was baying for blood. And the Indian team was ripe for sacrifice.
Unfortunately, Virat Kohli was unaware of any such circumstances. This was his Indian team and they weren’t here to take part, they were here to take over. And so began India’s chase, a masterclass in counter-attacking on one end of the pitch while Murali Vijay steadily held the other.
At no point during the game, did anyone even for a moment believed India was playing to save the Test. Wickets kept falling but Indian batters kept coming at the bowlers.
Unfortunately for the team, Kohli was dismissed at 141 of 175 balls and the rest of the team simply didn’t have the juice to carry on. We fell short by 48 runs. But that match, that innings in Adelaide set the template for how Virat Kohli’s Indian team was going to play, once the temporary skipper came of age.
In the post match interview, when Kohli was asked about his approach towards the game, he said:
At no point did we not think about chasing the score down.
And for the last 7 years, he’s done exactly that and the Indian Men’s Cricket Team has simply followed suit. India was ranked 6th or 7th at the time. When Kohli stepped down as the captain, India was no 1 in the ICC Test rankings. Since the news broke, people have been sharing this anecdote about Kohli’s first match as India’s Test captain.
His first Test as captain. I was sure that we’d play for a draw; we could easily have. But he went on to score centuries in both innings with a strike rate of 80+ in the fourth! We lost this one by just 48 runs. The guy totally changed how we approach a target. https://t.co/kjDX6DNYsU— Sony (@sonyjtp) January 16, 2022
It was a stepping stone for #TeamIndia in Tests. The dominance we had in the last 5-7 years was made possible when this step was taken. Most likely MS retired from Tests because he somehow understood what Virat expected and visioned for #TeamIndia as he led by example there. https://t.co/g7OSM6tAAX— Rajeesh Nair 🇮🇳 (@iRajeeshNair) January 16, 2022
Still remember watching this match and being proud of him for the way he captained our team and almost won us the game https://t.co/OgS1DTYoSM— Hush¹ᴰ misses Hazel (@infinitebeing21) January 16, 2022
He made us believe. He brought glory to test cricket in India back. Shastri deserves credit too here. Just because they were no trophies to show doesn't mean you ignore the great work. Also I think Ganguly should go. Outright mismanagement since forever https://t.co/VcS2p8sScv— Praveen Reddy (@pra_v) January 15, 2022
I remember, my friends & i just woke up after coming back frm Vaishno devi temple 2 Katra town that day. We stopped at a shop for tea in d morning & suddenly i saw the score on TV there and virat was on 140 & i was shell shocked. @arpitdwivedi22— Singh Yogendra (@yogendrasingh75) January 15, 2022
You can watch the innings here:
Since then Kohli’s built a team around that mentality and we are a better cricketing nation for it. Kohli stepping down as the captain of the Indian Test team is a loss not only for Indian cricket but for Test cricket as well given he is the biggest star of this generation and his love for Test cricket knew no bounds. Hopefully, he plays for years to come and at the end of it all, we can all look back and be grateful to have been born and watched cricket in the same era he played in.