Century of centuries not out of the question for Virat Kohli: Ravi Shastri
Kohli was unperturbed in spite of a shaky start in Mumbai, edging onto his pad and surviving an lbw review off the bowling of Tim Southee early. Circumspect and not tempted to match the early fireworks of Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill, Kohli travelled well under a run a ball throughout the early part of his knock, moving through the gears to finish with 117 from 113 balls, on India’s path to 397/4.
The knock provided a launchpad for Shreyas Iyer (105 off 70 balls), KL Rahul (39* from 20) and a returning Gill, who finished with 80* from 66 balls, in India's late flurry. In response, New Zealand fell 70 runs short, bowled out for 327.
Speaking to Brian Murgatroyd on the latest podcast of The ICC Review after India’s victory, Shastri looked at Kohli’s body language as the tell of his confidence and calm at the crease, remaining unflustered when others may have lost their way in the same situation.
“I think his composure, just his body language, his composure, his calmness of the crease (was telling),” Shastri began.
“I have seen him come out in previous World Cups where he's like a cat on a hot tin roof. He wants to get on with it straight away. None of that sort here.
“He's taken his time, marked his guard, soaked the pressure, given himself time, and understood his role of batting deep in the innings. And he's just been wonderful.”
Kohli cruised to reach the record ton and paid tribute to the man he passed, soaking in the cheers from the crowd. It was a moment of perspective for Shastri having watched the right-hander up close through his time as coach, though the commentator believes Kohli wins the battle against his opponents before a ball is bowled, and earning the plaudits by doing the hard work when no one is watching.
When asked by Murgatroyd to pinpoint Kohli’s standout qualities, Shastri looked at a combination of mental shifts, technical tinkering and an emphasis on fitness in the great batter’s meticulous preparation.
“It’s a mix of all three," he noted.
“(It) gives him some time, to be calm and composed at the beginning of the innings.
“His shot selection in the first 10, 15 runs, he doesn't take that extra risk. He’s quite prepared to leave deliveries, knock the ball around.”
Stringent in his diet, and working through a regiment cardio and fitness program, Kohli's preparation means he can eke out runs with his legs, rather than just dealing in boundaries, according to Shastri.
“One of the features of his batting has been his running between the wickets. The fact that he doesn't have to hit boundaries and sixes, he can run hard between the wickets because of his physical fitness," Shastri said.
“That takes the pressure off him. Even when he's not getting the boundaries, he's still rotating the strike.
“And he always has that uncanny ability of making it up towards the back end of the innings.”
Kohli turned 35 less than a fortnight ago, though with the emphasis on fitness, there’s scope for one of the game’s greatest to hang around a little while longer.
Looking to Tendulkar’s figure of 100 centuries, a number many believed would never be matched, Shastri believes it would be foolish to rule Kohli out from matching his compatriot.
“Who would have thought when Sachin Tendulkar got 100 hundreds that anyone would come close and he's got 80, 80 international hundreds, 50 of them in the one-day game and which makes him the highest. Unreal.
“Nothing's impossible because such players, when they start reeling off hundreds, then they score them pretty quickly. His next 10 innings, you might see another five hundreds.
“You have three formats of the game and he's part of all those formats.
“To think that he still has three or four years of cricket ahead of him is simply mind-boggling.”