On his way to 45 off 75 balls, he brought up 8000 Test runs before left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya managed to turn one past his outside edge as he tried to punch him off the backfoot and knock over his off-stump. Shell-shocked, Kohli stared at the pitch for a while before he marched back to the pavilion. The wait for his 71st Test hundred got longer.
It has been the same story for Kohli since he registered his 27th Test century against Bangladesh at Eden Gardens in November 2019. If his last nets session here at the PCA stadium was any indication, the dismissal shouldn’t surprise many. Left-arm spinner Saurabh Kumar had been frequently beating him similarly.
For all the jaw-dropping numbers he has conjured over the last 11 years of Test cricket, this has to be the most frustrating phase of Kohli’s batting career. He is not the one to conceal his disappointment. “I am not able to get a big score and something that I need to be mindful of and try and build on starts that I have got in the recent past and convert it into big scores,” Kohli conceded after the day’s play.
In Pics: Pant blitz helps India to 357/6 in Kohli’s 100th Test
<p>Rishabh Pant smashed 96 to help India to 357/6 on the opening day of the first Test against Sri Lanka after Virat Kohli fell agonisingly short of fifty in his 100th five-day match on Friday. (AP Photo)</p>
In the pre-pandemic world, Kohli would be vocal against the crammed international calendar. Before the start of day’s play, he prided himself to be an example for the next generation having managed to make it to 100 Tests in an age where the rigours of three formats
The post-pandemic world has been a notch harder. There’s not breathing space to either unwind or work on your game. “Lot of things have changed since Covid happened. We also have to understand that we play regularly in bubbles and we are always involved in cricket. It’s very difficult to get away from it. If you want to go back and work on your game, then you have to consider going back and coming back to be in quarantine for five days and then sit in a hotel room where all the progress means nothing,” Kohli explained the challenges of a modern-day cricketer.
“It’s not been an easy environment to get away from the game and get time to work on things. It has been challenging in how you follow your processes and certainly not follow the processes that you did before and you don’t really have time to work on things and fine tune a few things and switch off from the game and come back fresh,” he added.
Dravid defined his journey as one with class and excellence. Yet, Kohli felt like he was making his debut. After all, this is the first time in 68 Tests that he wasn’t leading India. The responsibilities have changed but his significance in the team is still unquestionable.
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“I had butterflies in my stomach. I didn’t realise the magnitude of the event till things got closer to today,” he conceded before he went on to clarify his approach towards his team. “Even before I became captain, I have always been a responsible player and took responsibility in different things. Obviously, captaincy brings in a lot more responsibility and the mindset was exactly the same even when I was the captain.”
“From a worldly point, people look at milestones and they talk about a lot of things and are just conversations on the outside. I know for a fact that I have been involved in big partnerships for the team. Everyone has different points of view and if people are not getting to see me get those big scores, it’s probably down to one’s own expectations and not me and standards of which have not been set randomly,” he added.
Kohli has reached a point in his career where he is seen as a statesman. He has a task to mould the next generation in the dressing room. Kohli’s point of view can barely be ignored.