The crowd had been aware of what was coming for some time when Virat Kohli tapped Marlon Samuels through cover to get to 9,999 runs. So their immediate silence seemed like a protest when MS Dhoni picked up a single off the next ball to retain strike for the following over. The wait wouldn’t last much longer though. Two balls later, Kohli was fed with a full ball on middle, which he drove to long-on. That single took him to 10,000 runs in his 205th innings – 54 innings faster than Sachin Tendulkar.
Kohli celebrated the milestone with a trademark celebration. The crowd on its feet, a quick glance to the sky, a kiss on the wedding ring and a limited-edition humble grin at Dhoni as he acknowledged the dressing room.
Kohli rarely has trouble in ODI cricket. In Visakhapatnam, his lowest score in five innings is 65. If there’s a place you’d bet on him to get 81 without fuss to reach 10,000 runs, this would be one of the top venues.
As he went about that task in the second ODI against West Indies, however, Kohli didn’t always look the batsman that he is: an unrelenting, marauding, proactive run machine. Before India had made it to the first drinks break, they’d lost two wickets and Kohli had already taken two water breaks. It was the natural consequence of electing to bat in an afternoon game, and even good friend Visakhapatnam didn’t spare him with a harsh welcome at 34 degrees Celsius and 66% humidity. Was it a good decision?
It went on through the innings. The clouds emerged from behind the Kambalakonda mountain and the temperature dropped, but the number of visits from the waterboy only increased. Umpire Ian Gould is probably used to disposing of errant substitutes, but on a day he had already dealt with a stamp from Ashley Nurse’s plus-sized boot, he didn’t have the patience to be subtle with 12th man KL Rahul. So, Rahul stopped showing up. But the drinks didn’t. By the time India got into the final ten overs, long after Kohli had become the fastest man to 10,000 runs, the reserves were running out every over. This isn’t normal for Kohli innings. Were the legs tiring?
Usually, Kohli is the most celebrated player in the middle during an ODI in India. But, here, the crowd was more raucous when Ambati Rayudu arrived, in line with the local trespasser who had managed to sneak in at the pre-match press conference on Tuesday and pose a question in Telugu about what it would mean for Rayudu to play in front of this crowd. It was a tough crowd nonetheless because as soon as Rayudu fell, they didn’t wait ten seconds before screaming for MS Dhoni to get to the crease. But they would come along.
At many points, Kohli seemed exhausted. Having reverted to his preferred anchor role, Kohli had done well to overcome the early loss of the openers and take India into the 23rd over, when he attempted an uncharacteristic loose strike against debutant left-arm quick Obed McCoy. It was a wristy flap well in front of his body, the kind of shot that is usually a signal that a batsman’s waning fitness is affecting his decision-making. It should have been taken at mid-off but Jason Holder dropped it. Was his mind shot?
From there, he went nearly ten overs with only one boundary as he looked to tighten up, before producing a glorious drive with the turn between two extra-cover fielders in the 32nd over. That seemed like a switching point for Kohli to push on. But, once again, he would hit only one boundary for nearly ten overs. Was the 10,000th run about as far as he could go?
Kohli eventually got to his 37th ODI hundred, and with his 30th at No. 3, he followed beating a Tendulkar record by beating one of Ricky Ponting’s. By now Dhoni and Rishabh Pant were both gone and India were only just past 250. Was an acceleration even possible?
In the 47th over, Kohli was nearly run-out looking to steal a second off an overthrow. He doesn’t usually have to dive from four yards out. He had to this time, and it took some time to get off the floor. It happened again in the 50th over, and this time Kohli took even longer to get up.
When he did, he had emphatically become the most celebrated player in the middle. The crowd had come along. The legs hadn’t burnt out. The mind was there, and so was the acceleration. Even on unusual days, Kohli makes everything work. It’s just how it goes.