On June 20, 2021, which was day three of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship final, Virat Kohli completed 10 years as a Test cricketer.
Kohli made his Test debut as a 22-year-old against the West Indies in Kingston back in 2011, soon after India won the 50-over World Cup for the second time, and could only manage scores of 4 and 15 in that match. But the decade since then saw him firmly establish himself as one of the all-time greats of the game.
While his credentials in limited overs cricket need no introduction, Kohli has always maintained that the longest format is closest to his heart. He took over India’s Test captaincy from Mahendra Singh Dhoni in 2014 and has gone on to lead his country in the most number of matches in history (61 and counting).
As a batsman, Kohli has scored runs all around the world and has been one of the finest players of his generation. Heading into the 2021 WTC Final, Kohli had scored 7490 runs in 91 Tests at an average of 52.37. He has 27 centuries (of which 14 has come away from home) and 25 half-centuries to his name.
In Kohli’s first 10 years of Test cricket, no other player scored as many centuries as him in the longest format. He has hit a century against every Test nation, except Bangladesh where he has played just one Test, and has a 50-plus average in Australia and South Africa.
The standout season for Kohli came in 2016, where he scored a staggering 1215 runs in 12 Tests at an average of 75.93.
Kohli's career stats in Tests
|in New Zealand||4||252||105*||36.00||1|
|in South Africa||5||558||153||55.80||2|
|in Sri Lanka||6||394||103*||43.77||2|
|in West Indies||9||463||200||35.61||1|
To mark Kohli’s 10 years in Test cricket, here’s a look at 10 of his finest knocks in the longest format:
116 vs Australia – Adelaide 2012
Six months after Kohli made his Test debut, India were facing Australia in the fourth and final Test of their 2011-’12 tour. The right-hander had managed just 43 runs in total in the first two Tests of the series but had gained some momentum in the third game at Perth by getting scores of 44 and 75. The action then shifted to Adelaide and in the 14th innings of his Test career, Kohli smashed his first century in the longest format. Batting at No 6 in a middle order comprising Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, he scored 116 runs (213 balls) in India’s total of 272 in their first innings. India lost that match, and the series 0-4, but it marked Kohli’s arrival in red-ball cricket.
119 vs South Africa – Johannesburg 2013
India toured South Africa in 2013 for a two-Test series and the first match in Johannesburg saw Kohli deliver a masterclass batting at No 4. Opting to bat first, India were in a tough spot having lost openers Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay with just 24 runs on the board. But Kohli walked out to the middle and was positive from the start. South Africa had Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Jacques Kallis and Imran Tahir in their bowling attack, but Kohli was a class apart and scored 119 runs (181 balls) in India’s total of 280. His knock helped the visitors avoid a first innings collapse and achieve a draw eventually. This was Kohli’s second overseas century in Test cricket.
141 vs Australia – Adelaide 2014
India’s 2013-’14 tour of Australia remains significant as it saw Dhoni announce his retirement from Test cricket in the middle of the series. But that tour is also memorable for Kohli’s sensational run with the bat. In the first game at Adelaide, he got centuries in both the innings and almost took his team to an improbable win. After scoring 115 in the first innings, the right-hander played an absolute blinder in the second. India were set a target of 364 and even as wickets kept falling around him, Kohli believed in himself and kept chipping away at the target. India eventually suffered an agonising 48-run defeat but Kohli’s 141 off 175 became an instant classic.
169 vs Australia – Melbourne 2014
After losing the first two Tests in the 2013-’14 tour of Australia, India arrived in Melbourne for the third game hoping to turn the tide. Kohli had a quiet second Test in Brisbane but he roared back at the MCG with a majestic 169 against an attack comprising Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Shane Watson and Nathan Lyon. He shared a mammoth 262-run fourth-wicket partnership with Ajinkya Rahane (147) and that went a long way in helping India draw the match. This was the Test after which Dhoni announced his retirement from the longest format. And thus began a new era in Indian cricket as Kohli took over the reins.
235 vs England – Mumbai 2016
England toured India in 2016 for a five-Test series and lost the second and third games after the first one ended in a draw. The action then shifted to the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai and that’s when Kohli smashed his third double century (and his then highest score) in Test cricket. The right-hander had had a phenomenal 2016 across formats and took the likes of James Anderson, Chris Woakes, Jake Ball, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid to the cleaners. England batted first in that match and got a solid total of 400. But India rode on a 340-ball 235 from Kohli to reply with 631 and win the match by an innings.
Watch highlights of that innings here.
153 vs South Africa – Centurion 2018
India played three Tests in South Africa in 2018 and lost the series 2-1 after winning the last match. But the second Test witnessed a Kohli special as he scored nearly half of his team’s total in the first innings. The hosts batted first and posted 335, with India struggling at 28/2 in reply. That’s when Kohli came to the middle and took the attack to the opposition once again. He first added 79 runs for the third wicket with Vijay and once the opener perished, he kept looking for runs even as the rest of the batting order crumbled. Kohli’s knock of 153 runs at a strike-rate of 70.50 was out of the top drawer and showed yet again that he was in a league of his own.
149 vs England – Birmingham 2018
This knock remains one of the most significant in Kohli’s career. He suffered a horrid tour of England in 2014, scoring just 134 runs in 10 innings. But the 2018 tour saw him turn things around and it started with a brilliant 149 off 225 in Birmingham. He had scored centuries in every top Test playing nation and he finally broke the duck in England as well by riding on a bit of luck and showing a lot of class. It was the first Test of the five-match series and the hosts posted 287 after opting to bat first. Kohli then scored most of his team’s runs yet again to keep India in the game, but the visitors went on to suffer a narrow 31-run defeat.
103 vs England – Nottingham 2018
After losing the first two Tests in the 2018 tour, India notched up a rare victory on English soil and the player of the match was Kohli. The skipper was dismissed for 97 in the first innings but didn’t miss out in the second, as his 103 off 197 helped India set England an imposing target of 521 runs. England had a potent attack in James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid, but Kohli was in sublime form during that tour and hardly ever missed out on scoring opportunities. India eventually lost that series 1-4 but Kohli’s 593 runs in 10 innings cemented his position among the all-time greats of the game.
123 vs Australia – Perth 2018
For Indian cricket fans, the 2018-’19 tour of Australia will forever remain iconic as it was the first time an Indian team won a Test series Down Under. Led by Kohli, the visitors bagged the four-match series 2-1. But it was in a losing cause, with his team pushed into a corner, that the skipper delivered his best knock of the series. Having won the opener in Adelaide, India were in all sorts of trouble in the second Test after the hosts posted 326 and removed openers KL Rahul and Murali Vijay with just eight runs on the board. Australia, whose attack included Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon, had their tail up and could sense the kill. But as he had done so often in his career, Kohli elevated his game yet again and went about his business full of confidence. He hit 123 off 257, with 13 fours and a six, and added partnerships with Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane to help India post a respectable total of 283. Australia went on to win by 146 runs but it was Kohli who got the lone century in that match.
254* vs South Africa – Pune 2019
South Africa’s 2019 tour of India was a forgettable one for them as they got completely outplayed in the Test series and lost 0-3. India won the first Test by 203 runs, the second by an innings and 137 runs, and the third by an innings and 202 runs. While it was a significant triumph for captain Kohli, the series was also memorable for him as a batsman as he notched up his highest Test score during the second match in Pune. India batted first and declared for a mammoth 601/5, with the skipper remaining unbeaten on a sensational 254 off 336. The Proteas had Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Keshav Maharaj and Senuran Muthusamy in their attack, but they hardly troubled Kohli as he hit 33 fours and two sixes in his marathon knock.
Watch highlights of that innings here.