For those who watch the game regularly, there are a certain things you notice right away about a good batter. The way they take the ball on to their bat, the strokeplay, the defence, the elegance, and perhaps the grit too.

But every once in a while there comes a player who has it all along with one other trait that sets her/him apart. A trait that helps elevate them to the pantheon of greats. And that is the ability to accumulate runs with ease. There are many who play attractive shots, but only the rare make run-scoring look easy. That ease reflects in those watching too. When such batters are at the crease, you just know they will score.

And in his era, there is perhaps no greater example of this than Virat Kohli.

He announced his arrival by leading India to the ICC Under-19 World Cup title in 2008, took to the white-ball game at the senior level quickly, and made his Test debut in June 2011. As Sachin Tendulkar said in this video shared by the BCCI, Kohli was always one to watch out for.

Now, after nearly 11 years at the biggest stage, the 33-year-old is on the cusp of playing his 100th Test match with plenty of cricket still left in him – a feat that is as rare as his abilities.

“His batting skills, temperament, hunger to score runs, and fitness levels set him apart,” former India cricketer Pravin Amre told “You need all these qualities to become a legend and he has them in abundance.”

Kohli always had what it takes to succeed in the white-ball game, but his commitment to Test cricket was just as significant as it helped elevate the stature of the format itself. The first couple of years saw him make consistent contributions and it was impossible to miss he had the defence and technique to thrive in Tests.

“Just his focus, rather than his technique, enabled him to watch the ball like a hawk and make those decisions whether to defend or attack,” Mumbai batting great Amol Muzumdar told

“It becomes difficult to sustain that consistency if you take that focus away. Great players know better than the rest when to switch gears. You never associate Virat with technique. Don’t get me wrong, he has an absolutely brilliant technique. But his forte is something else, it’s his mindset and focus. Just the ability to switch on and off, it’s very difficult to do that but he makes it look easy.”

Kohli has scored runs in heaps at home and away. And for most of his career as a batter, it’s been hard to look beyond the staggering numbers and exemplary strokeplay.

“What happens is when you’re in form and doing well, it doesn’t matter what sort of technique you have,” former India cricketer and coach Anshuman Gaekwad told

“The problem arises only when you’re not scoring runs, that’s when people start talking about technique. But that’s precisely where his greatness lies, he has scored so consistently that his technique, which is impeccable, doesn’t gain attention and perhaps the credit it deserves.”

The many phases of Kohli's Test career

Span Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 0 4s 6s
Jun '11 to Nov '13 20 33 3 1235 116 41.16 2586 47.75 4 7 2 144 6
Dec '13 to Dec '19 64 108 7 5967 254* 59.07 9871 60.44 23 15 8 661 16
Feb '20 to Feb '22 15 27 0 760 79 28.14 1843 41.23 0 6 4 91 2
Overall 99 168 10 7962 254* 50.39 14300 55.67 27 28 14 896 24
Courtesy ESPNcricinfo Statsguru

It was right after Tendulkar’s retirement that Kohli’s Test career really took off. It started with a century in Johannesburg in December 2013, followed by a ton in Wellington two months later, and then the famous tour of Australia from December 2014 where he hit four centuries.

Of course, there was the England 2014 tour too. It was a tour that forced him into reset mode; forced him to introspect. He thought hard about his game, about where he wanted to be, had a chat with Tendulkar and finally emerged as the player we see today. He found a way to weld his aggression into focus.

For about five years starting from 2014, Kohli was at his absolute best. He hit seven double centuries, the most by any Indian batter ever, during that period, and also became the player with the most runs as India’s Test captain.

“What set him apart during this phase was his ability to convert starts into big scores. That hunger for success was immense. He always had that ability to switch gears according to the situation,” said Muzumdar.

Gaekwad added: “He has a different attitude and approach to the game. Virat has always led from the front, even when he wasn’t the captain. He was aggressive and always wanted to overpower bowlers. That showed newer possibilities of what a batter can do. His aggression is something else.”

Kohli’s rise in Test cricket was consistent with his mastery of the white-ball game. And with wizardry that’s exclusive to him and his kind, he was rock solid while batting in limited overs and intimidating in Tests.

“He has kept his game very simple throughout his career,” said Amre. “Playing with the simple logic of hitting the ball to its merit, he doesn’t need fancy shots. He always trusts conventional cricketing shots and that’s the secret of his success as a Test batter. For Virat, it’s extra special to get to 100 Tests since he came up more as a one-day player. But he proved to his critics that he can perform in all formats.”

A matter of time

He seemed on course to break most batting records but the last couple of years have seen a dip in Kohli’s form. He has got starts, even scored half-centuries, but a 71st international ton has eluded him.

But’s Kohli’s relative lack of form has also been different. He has often looked in control, dominating bowlers for brief periods. But his time at the crease has been marked by an uptick in uncharacteristic dismissals.

The absence of big scores has led to the usual speculation about possible reasons. Is it the bio-bubble fatigue, a dip in confidence, a need for technical changes, or something else perhaps?

“It has more to do with the mindset,” said Muzumdar. “Sometimes, to play at your best, you need to get charged up. I feel Virat is at his best when he is charged up. There are players who do their best when they are a little hurt or angry, and there are even those who prefer calmness. But with Virat, if he wants to play his best, he needs to find that charger somewhere. He needs to find it on the field and if not, then there needs to be something that charges him up off the field. That trigger has to go off.”

Amre added: “Experience is the best master and he will know how to turn things around. Not many play 100 Test matches, I have played just 11 so it’s not worth it for me to comment. He has seen it all and will know better than anyone what he needs to do.”

Kohli, of course, isn’t the first great to go through such a phase. But not everyone bounces back and he definitely has a battle on his hands.

“Form can change, class remains,” said Gaekwad. “With players like him it’s only a question of one innings and they get everything back. Such a phase comes in everyone’s career. You talk about Gavaskar, Vishwanath or Amarnath, all big cricketers, they all had phases where they tried everything but nothing worked. But they come back stronger, and that is what will happen with Virat. It’s only a matter of time.”

Another challenge for Kohli going forward could be the fact that he isn’t the captain anymore. Leading from the front and being the face of the team has undoubtedly played a part in his growth. How he copes without the responsibility will be crucial.

“It will be very hard, trust me,” said Muzumdar. “Captaincy is a sort of drug which helps you take important decisions. You’re involved in every little thing. And suddenly when it is gone, you have to go back to those years when you weren’t the captain. That’s easier said than done but you have to motivate yourself somehow. Your body, mind and reflexes get used to a certain kind of responsibility. So he will have to find a sixth gear from somewhere.”

As Kohli heads towards a landmark 100th Test, though, there’s reason to believe he will find his best again. He has shown sparks of brilliance in the last year and remains one of the fittest members of the team.

“It was his decision to give up Test captaincy and he must have taken it wisely,” said Amre. “Now that the burden of leadership is gone, we’ll get to see what he demands from himself as a player.”

Muzumdar added: “Geniuses aren’t born everyday, and he’s an absolute genius of this era. He will find a way out, it’s just a matter of time. He just has to stay put.”