In photos – The rise and rise of Virat Kohli, India’s cricket captain

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Virat Kohli, India’s cricket captain, occupies a prominent place among GOATs (Greatest Of All Times) as he is hailed as the best batsman among the present cricketers and is breaking world records with tremendous speed. He was born in 1988 and began playing cricket from age of three. He preferred cricket bats to toys and forced his father to bowl to him. Like most youngsters, he began by playing gully cricket and by the age of nine had began to impress everyone with his skills. Father Prem Kohli took him to a cricket academy in ’98 and put him under the tutelage of coach Rajkumar Sharma. His coach revealed that Kohli never wanted to stop practice and he had to often push him out to return home.

The year 1998 was the one that Sachin Tendulkar cracked two of the finest centuries at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in the Coca Cola Cup. Those knocks left an indelible mark in young Kohli’s mind, and also motivated him to take up the game seriously.

A young Kohli scored heavily in inter-school cricket, got into Delhi Under-15 team and began to score centuries to quickly graduate to the Under-17 team. He got selected into the India Under-19 team in 2006 for a tour of England, where he averaged 106 in that three-match ODI series. India’s Under-19 coach Lalchand Rajput predicted a great future for him. Kohli became the youth team captain and went on to lift the 2008 ICC Under-19 World Cup. He led from the front and emerged tournament’s third highest run getter.

The famous story goes that in 2006, Kohli caught the attention of everyone with a courageous innings for Delhi despite losing his father the night before. Putting the tragedy behind him for the team’s cause, he ensured a draw against Karnataka with an innings of 90. He went directly for the funeral after he was dismissed.

It was Kohli’s exploits as India’s Under-19 captain that caught the attention of the Royal Challengers Bangalore, who picked him to play in the Indian Premier League for $30,000 on a youth contract. He got a scholarship to train at Cricket Australia’s Centre for Excellence in Brisbane and on return got picked among the 30 probables for the Indian team for ICC Champions Trophy in 2008.

It was the big breakthrough year for Kohli as he made his ODI debut in Sri Lanka in 2008 and launched his career for Team India at the age of 19. He hit his first half century during the series. However, it was only in 2010 that Kohli could cement his place in the Indian team. He utilized the opportunity to play all five ODI matches against Bangladesh as Sachin Tendulkar was rested. He piled up 275 runs from five innings at an average of 91.66 to announce that he is set for bigger things.

Kohli’s record-breaking spree began early when he became the fastest Indian batsman to reach 1,000 runs in ODI cricket. In the 2011 World Cup, he scored an unbeaten 100 in the first match against Bangladesh and became the first Indian batsman to score a century on World Cup debut.

The day Tendulkar retired from international cricket at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai in 2013, Kohli walked up to Tendulkar and presented him a thread he had worn around his wrist. That was a good luck charm that his father had presented to him and after handing it over, Kohli touched Tendulkar’s feet and hugged him. Veteran journalist Vijay Lokapally, who wrote Kohli’s autobiography titled ‘Driven,’ described the moment nicely: “The mantle was quietly passed on that day from a master to one in the making.”

Kohli was appointed vice-captain of the Indian team for the 2012 Asia Cup in Bangladesh with the then chief selector K. Srikkanth announcing that he is a future captaincy material. In the match against Pakistan, he cracked 183 off 148 balls, his 11th ODI century to help India to chase down 330, their highest successful ODI run-chase at the time.

In the tri-series against West Indies in 2013, Kohli was made the captain of the Indian team in place of Dhoni who had to miss the series due to a hamstring injury. In his second match as captain at Port of Spain, Kohli scored his first hundred as captain.