Virat Kohli Fuelling India’s Ambition In ICC Cricket World Cup 2023

Virat Kohli has anchored India’s batting in the 2023 ODI World Cup as only he can, stacking up 594 runs at a Bradmanesque average of 99. Can he take the hosts to their second home title in a row?


Virat Kohli bats against New Zealand in Dharamsala during the 2023 ODI World Cup.

Call it a fairy tale or the fruition of a supreme talent’s burning desire. Twelve years ago, a then 22-year-old Virat Kohli lifted Sachin Tendulkar on his shoulders as the former India great walked into the sunset, secure in the knowledge that he, too, had tasted World Cup glory. (Full Coverage | Cricket News)

When asked about his motivation for carrying Tendulkar, Kohli had succinctly put: "He has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years; it was time we carried him." Today, the same youngster, now 35, is carrying India’s hopes on those very shoulders.

Kohli has anchored India’s batting forays in the 2023 ODI World Cup as only he can. In the nine league games the hosts have played and won, Kohli has raised his bat seven times. He has hit two centuries, got close two other times, and always walked out as the reliable nucleus around which the likes of Rohit Sharma, Shreyas Iyer and Ravindra Jadeja have exhibited their big-hitting prowess.


In the process, Kohli has also equalled his idol Tendulkar’s record of 49 One-Day International (ODI) tons. The Delhi boy found the perfect setting to do it – his 35th birthday, at the same ground where he scored his first ODI hundred – Eden Gardens.  

But the milestones are surely not what keep Kohli going. It is the hunger to do better, to be better than he was the previous time. Ambition fuels his existence, it always has. You can see it in those searing eyes. They give it all away.

Beyond the runs and the stardom, there is a reason why the camera loves Kohli on the cricket field. It is because the intensity he brings into action every time is unmatched. He could be batting, fielding in the slips or appealing for an LBW. The intensity never wavers.


Acclaimed actor and Kohli’s spouse Anushka Sharma’s recent remark was an apt encapsulation of this vigour. “Sometimes even the bowler is not as excited as Virat is,” Sharma said, referring to her partner’s unfettered celebrations of opponents’ wickets.  

It is true. Kohli is frequently more charged up than the ones who effected the dismissal. It may or may not have something to do with his penchant for histrionics, but certainly has a lot to do with how emotionally invested the former India captain is in the team’s cause.    

When one of the seniormost members of the side is this enthused, the energy is bound to rub off on the rest of the team. The ground fielding improves, the running between the wickets accelerates and the seamers steam in that much harder.

But things don’t always go your way in sport. Regardless of how intense an athlete’s focus is, the results are often beyond their control in top-flight competition. And Kohli has learnt that painfully over the years.

The modern-day batting titan went nearly three years without an international century to his name, and doubts began to creep in about whether that was the end of the road for him. Kohli has been vocal about the mental health issues that plagued him in that period, and it took some doing to turn the tide.


India’s former mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton helped Kohli regain perspective during the T20 World Cup in Australia last year. "I had a lot of conversations with him, and I really appreciated him in that moment because he constantly kept me in check with my checkpoints of being present. Keep doing things that you did when you were playing good cricket," Kohli told Star Sports recently.

The fact that Upton has played cricket himself helped him empathise with what Kohli was going through. "If you haven't played (cricket) and you are explaining struggles and challenges, then it’s different. The one who has played knows the margins of the game, the inches and the centimetres of a run-out or a catch being taken, a great shot hit, but it went to the fielder if it was a foot away, something else (sic)," Kohli explained.


The sessions reaped rich rewards, as Kohli rediscovered his mojo and hit one of his most mesmerizing knocks ever - an unbeaten 53-ball 82 that single-handedly won India the match against arch-rivals Pakistan in Melbourne. 

The way Kohli changed gears when he needed to in that innings gave him the confidence that he could still wield magic with his willow at the highest level. What we have seen since is an altered Kohli, whose century celebrations – where his passion used to manifest as anger - are now more about joy and gratitude.    

The central motivation still is to upgrade and innovate; to do whatever it takes to give him the best opportunity to win games for India. “Improvement happens when you think, ‘What can I add to my game to win the match?’. You don't do it to become a complete batsman. Very few people know that to technically look good you don't practice; it is so that I can learn a new shot and I can score runs for the team and win the match,” Kohli said.


The results are there for all to see. Over the years, Kohli has become a limited-overs giant, breaking record after record in the 50-over format in particular. Beyond the records, though, it is his ability to unilaterally transform matches that is most cherished. India have lost just seven of the 49 ODIs where Kohli has scored a ton, which shows the impact of his knocks on the outcome. 

With 594 runs at a Bradmanesque average of 99, Kohli tops the batting charts in the 2023 ODI World Cup ahead of the knockout stage. He has scores of 95, 85 and 101 not out respectively in the league games against the three other semi-finalists – New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. The stage is set for ‘King’ Kohli to command India’s crowning glory. If it does happen, we might see a symbolic passing of the baton, with ‘Prince’ Shubman Gill perhaps lifting Kohli on his shoulders, this time.