Virat Kohli produced another masterclass in Test match batting, reaching his 21st century and converting it into a 150 in Centurion, when his team needed it badly. With every other batsman (perhaps excluding M Vijay) struggling to get going on an interesting pitch, Kohli hardly put a foot wrong as he went on to score almost exactly 50% of the runs India made – 153 out of 307 – to take his team close to the South African total.
Kohli has made scoring big hundreds a habit and he has often referred to his innings in Adelaide in his first Test match as captain as a turning point. There was no doubting Kohli’s batting talent, but there were question marks over his temperament to score big. Out of his first 11 Test centuries, only one was more than 150.
And then it all started to change.
Starting with his first double century, which came in West Indies in 2015, Kohli simply upped the game. From then on, Kohli has made sure he will
Sourav Ganguly recounted an anecdote during the home series against England about Kohli going to train in the gym after playing a marathon innings – because he wanted to push the limits. When he was asked why he was there after such a long innings, Kohli said only if he pushes himself when he is tired will he be able to make bigger scores.
And boy, has he proved that time and again.
Kohli not only has a tendency to score centuries, but is now making a habit of scoring huge centuries. Eight out of his last ten centuries have been 150 runs or more – the two times he did not get a 150, he was unbeaten on 103 and 104. Six of those have been double centuries.
“I think because of captaincy you tend to go on more than what you usually would as a normal batsman. The room for complacency is no more present when you become captain,” Kohli had said after his fourth Test double century that came against Bangladesh in Hyderabad.
“That has something to do with me playing long innings. I have always wanted to play long innings and my first seven or eight hundreds were not even 120-plus scores.
“After that I made a conscious effort to bat long, control my excitement or not be complacent. I have worked on my fitness as well. I feel I can go on for longer periods now. I don’t get tired as much as I used to before,” said Kohli.
And the other aspect of Kohli’s genius in converting half centuries into centuries. It is, with a slight exaggeration, reaching Bradmanesque levels.
As you can see, Kohli’s conversion rate is exceptional. He converts over 58% of his half centuries. Only two all-time greats George Headley and Sir Don Bradman are better. Headley (who was referred to as the Black Bradman or in some cases, Bradman was referred to as the White Headley too in some quarters) played 22 Test matches for West Indies and made 10 Test centuries and five fifties. Bradman, for his part, made 29 centuries in the 42 times he went past 50.
Among his contemporaries, only Steve Smith comes close. He converts 50% of his 50s into tons.
But most Test greats like Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara have much lower conversion rate.
While this figure might be premature, since we’re comparing Kohli in the middle of his career, there is no doubt that, once he gets his eye in, he will make the opposition pay.