Today felt more like ‘it’s going to be something greater,’ than ‘just another World Cup game.’ After his 35th birthday and his match-winning 101 not out off 121 balls against South Africa in Kolkata, an innings that tied Sachin Tendulkar’s world record of 49 ODI hundreds, Virat Kohli said, “Yes, I did wake up with that excitement.”
“It was a significant match,” remarked Kohli, who also happened to earn Player of the Match. “To be honest, we were up against arguably the toughest squad we had faced in the tournament thus far. They produced some incredible cricket. One driving force was the desire to perform well for the squad. People made it more special for me because it was my birthday. Rather of thinking of it as just another World Cup game, I had the feeling that today would be more significant. Yes, I did wake up feeling excited.”
“Well played, Virat,” Tendulkar wrote in a congrats message on the social networking platform X following Kohli’s 49th century. Earlier this year, I went from 49 to 50 in 365 days. In the coming days, I hope you break my record and progress from 49 to 50. Many congratulations!”
Speaking about Tendulkar’s words and accomplishment, a tearful Kohli remarked, “It’s all too much to take in right now.”
“The message from Tendulkar is very unique. Being able to match my hero’s record in one-day internationals is an enormous honor for me, but right now, it’s all too much for me to process. I am aware that comparisons are popular, but I will never measure up to him. We all looked up to him for a reason. And when it comes to hitting, he’s flawless. I’m giving it my all in an effort to win games for my nation. No matter what happens, he will always be my hero. I’m experiencing a lot of emotion right now. I remember when I used to watch him play on TV, so I knew where I came from. It means a lot to me to be able to stand here and get this recognition from someone like him.”
India’s innings began in the sixth over after Rohit Sharma handed the team a commanding lead against South Africa. Shubman Gill was lost in the eleventh over, leaving the score at 93 for 2. In front of an almost full Eden Gardens, he hit Kagiso Rabada to cover for a single in the 49th over, reaching the record-tying hundred from 119 balls during play. Kohli reached his 49th century in just his 277th innings in his 289th match, whereas Tendulkar reached it in his 451st ODI innings. In a match they ultimately won by 243 runs, his innings—and his partnership of 134 off 158 balls with Shreyas Iyer—assisted India in scoring 326 for 5.
“People from the outside probably look at the game in a different way,” he stated. “You think, “Wow, this is a belter, and everyone needs to keep going that way,” when the openers begin in that manner when the ball is brand-new. However, with the old ball, the pitch slowed down and the conditions changed. The management sent out a clear message: I bat deep, and the guys around me bat with me, form partnerships, express themselves, and continue to perform the work that the club needs me to do. That’s my job, and it always has been. From that vantage point, I was really pleased because, in situations like these, you can always look back and say, “Well, we could have gotten 320-325 at 295.” We knew it was above par after you crossed the 315 mark, and we are in a comfortable place now.”
After eight league games, Kohli has amassed two hundreds at the 2023 World Cup in addition to four half-centuries. He has scored 543 runs at an average of 108.60 and a strike rate of 88.29, making him the second top run scorer in the competition behind Quinton de Kock of South Africa. He has never scored more than 500 runs in an ODI World Cup before.
Following a few quiet years, Kohli’s century in the ODI format caps off an incredible 2023 for him. In 2023, he amassed over a thousand runs with five centuries, averaging 72.18 with a strike rate of 99.82. He has surpassed Tendulkar’s record of seven times to score more than 1000 ODI runs in a year for the eighth time.
“I would say I am enjoying myself, playing cricket all over again which is more important now than thinking about phases and such,” he stated. I believe you are not having fun when things are not going your way. That’s what I understand from it. You still have experience, which allows you to score runs. However, even for those fifty to sixty runs, being outside is not as fun as it is at the moment. I’m just grateful that God has granted me that delight once more and that I can resume my many years of activities.”