Indian superstar Virat Kohli hit his first Test century in over three years on Sunday, ending his long drought and sparking raucous celebrations at the world’s biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad.
“King Kohli”, one of cricket’s biggest names, admitted last year to mental health struggles as his magic with the bat deserted him. He also lost the Indian captaincy, one of the most high-pressure jobs in world sport.
But on Sunday, having already returned to form with ODI and T20 centuries in recent months, the long wait for his 28th Test ton ended in the fourth Test against Australia.
Resuming on 59 after reaching his first Test half-century on Saturday since January 2022, the landmark came after a patient innings of 241 balls as he eased Nathan Lyon for a single.
Appearing to tear up, the heavily tattooed 34-year-old acknowledged the crowd and the dressing room before kissing the locket on his gold chain as he smiled and looked up to the sky.
“A 600-kilo gorilla is off his back. He will grow a couple of inches taller by this evening,” shouted commentator and former India coach Ravi Shastri.
Australia’s stand-in-skipper Steve Smith applauded on the ground, and a placard in the crowd read “Here to see King Kohli ruling in his kingdom”, as children in India shirts bowed in respect.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan tweeted: “Good to see @imVkohli back scoring a Test ton .. Love watching him Bat .. Over 3 yrs since his last one .. My guess is a few might come along now”.
Kohli had a tough 2021 and 2022, failing to reach three figures in over 1,000 days.
He quit as Twenty20 skipper in late 2021 and in January 2022 was sacked from the one-day captaincy and gave up leading the Test side too.
But he hit his first ton after 1,020 days in the Asia Cup T20 tournament in September last year and hasn’t looked back since.
Kohli finished the T20 World Cup in Australia last year as the leading run-scorer and then hit three ODI centuries including two — 113 and 166 not out — against Sri Lanka in January.
Kohli is one of the best batsmen of his generation in world cricket.
But the brash celebrity, who has 54 million Twitter followers and ubiquitously graces advertising campaigns, has had his share of run-ins with umpires and opponents alike along the way.
The former captain has a Test average of over 48 in 108 matches since making his debut in 2011 and has struck 75 centuries across the three international formats.
Kohli remains behind Australia’s Smith and England’s Joe Root in the number of Test centuries between the “fabulous four” — the leading four batsmen of the modern era.
Smith overtook Kohli during the Indian batsman’s lean phase and now has 30 Test centuries. Root — who made five hundreds in 2022 — has 29 and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson has 26.
Kohli’s previous Test hundred dates back to November 2019 against Bangladesh in a day-night game in India.
Kohli now stands fourth in the all-time Test century makers for India behind Sachin Tendulkar (51 — the highest overall), Rahul Dravid (36) and Sunil Gavaskar (34).
Kohli had spoken about his mental health struggles during his dry phase, including how he had been “snappy” around his Bollywood actor wife Anushka Sharma, with whom he has a young daughter.
Pundits, among them former World Cup-winning captain Kapil Dev, even suggested Kohli should be dropped during his lean phase last year.
The former top-ranked batsman revealed during the 2022 Asia Cup that only Mahendra Singh Dhoni sent him messages of support during a tough phase of mental struggle after quitting the Test captaincy.