Virat Kohli had a disarming smile at the end of it all. He had just dispatched a Nathan Lyon delivery towards mid-wicket for a single.
The 40-month wait is over and Kohli has finally got his 28th Test hundred.
There were no clenched fists, no imaginary upper-cut like a pro boxer, and no giant leap in celebration. There wasn’t any customary cuss word either.
Instead, there was just relief written all over his face. Kohli kissed his wedding ring tied to his necklace and acknowledged the crowd, unlike when he had completed a half-century.
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During those 40 long months, Test runs dried up and average dipped to a lowly 25. There was criticism all around and his legion of fans were kept waiting for the day when he would play a special knock to warm their hearts.
Great players have the knack of conquering the odds, and on Sunday Kohli crossed a major hurdle with the fighting spirit of a champion.
Kohli had to channelise his inner Muhammad Ali, who won the scrappy 12-round tactical battle against Joe Frazier in 1974.
It wasn’t Kohli the fire-fighter who hit a spectacular straight six against Pakistan’s Haris Rauf at the MCG during the T20 World Cup last year. It was the scrappy Kohli, who was only looking at the three-figure mark at any cost.
The Sydney discipline of Tendulkar
On Sunday, Kolhi looked less like himself and more like Sachin Tendulkar, the man who didn’t hit a cover drive till he had scored 200 against the Brett Lee-led Australian attack at Sydney in 2004.
In terms of joy and spectacle that Kohli’s centuries are meant to be, the one in Ahmedabad would come lower down the pecking order — perhaps not even among his his top-20 Test hundreds.
A look at Kohli’s wagon wheel till he completed his 100 would look eerily similar to Tendulkar’s wagon wheel in 2004.
Kohli stopped reaching out for deliveries outside off-stump. The cover drive hardly came out of the closet and he was only willing whip deliveries outside off-stump in the arc between square leg and deep mid-wicket.
Sample this little statistical nugget: Kohli hit the fifth boundary of his innings off the 89th delivery he faced, and the sixth boundary came off the 251st delivery.
There were 162 deliveries (27 overs) in the interim, including one full session between fourth day’s morning session that he faced and didn’t hit a single four.
From his individual score of 60 till he reached the century mark, there were only singles and doubles. It was arguably one of his slowest hundreds and came off 241 balls.
It wasn’t as if he didn’t play through the off-side but it was more close to the body and just trying to tap it for singles, save one off Matt Kuhnemann on the third evening, which he hit for a boundary.
Once the monkey was off his back, the customary Kohli panache was back and the boundaries flowed.
He stopped reaching for deliveries even when Mitchell Starc angled one across or when Cameron Green bowled in the fourth or fifth stump channel.
The first expansive cover drive came when he was on 145. Kohli reached out to a wide half-volley from Green to get a boundary through extra cover. The next delivery was a signature Kohli on-drive, which took him to 150. The celebrations were even more muted compared to when he had reached his hundred.
This time, he didn’t even take off his helmet.
The testimony to Kohli’s fitness was running a three with Axar Patel when he was in his 160s.
Motera, over the years, has seen some major milestones, with Sunil Gavaskar’s 10,000th run and Kapil Dev’s then world record 432nd Test wicket, being a few of them.
Kohli’s knock on Sunday will certainly joint that list.