India superstar Virat Kohli makes history at Cricket World Cup with record 50th ODI century
BY CHETAN NARULA
MUMBAI, India (AP) — For Virat Kohli, his latest record-breaking moment couldn’t have been scripted any better.
As he got up off his knees, removed his helmet and took in the acclaim of the Mumbai crowd after reaching his record 50th ODI century, the India superstar looked up to his wife — movie actress Anushka Sharma — and blew her kisses.
He bowed toward Sachin Tendulkar, his cricketing hero and the man whose record he’d just broken inside the Wankhede stadium.
Before long, he’d be congratulated by soccer icon David Beckham, who couldn’t have timed his first trip to India any better.
David Beckham said "I am lucky to witness the history, coming to India for the first time & I came to India at the right time as well – I am so humbled".#IndiaVsNewZealand #ViratKohli𓃵 #DavidBeckham pic.twitter.com/HSAK7NF7xE
— Diplomat Times (@diplomattimes) November 15, 2023
“If I could paint the perfect picture,” Kohli said, “I would want this to be the picture.”
Kohli hit his landmark hundred in the Cricket World Cup semifinals against New Zealand on Wednesday, continuing his dominance of a tournament he is making his own.
There’ve been unbeaten knocks of 103 against Bangladesh and 101 against South Africa but this innings of 117 was the most special, breaking a record many believed was there to stay.
The 50-year-old Tendulkar, the highest run-scorer in ODI and test cricket, had scored his 49 ODI centuries in 452 innings. Kohli, remarkably, has overtaken that landmark in 279 innings and in his 291st ODI.
Tendulkar was his childhood cricket idol. In 2011, Tendulkar carried Kohli on his shoulders around the Wankhede after India won its second World Cup title.
So no wonder Kohli was emotional Wednesday after flicking New Zealand pacer Lockie Ferguson to backward square leg for two runs to bring up his hundred. He raised his arms aloft while leaping high, then sank to his knees and looked to the sky.
“To witness a piece of history with the atmosphere today, it’s goose bumps,” said Beckham, who is in India in his role as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and was taking in his first Cricket World Cup game. “Before the match even started, you walk out here and feel there’s something special happening.
“I’m lucky to be here.”
Kohli called it the “stuff of dreams.”
“My life partner, the person I love the most, she is sitting there,” he said. “My hero, he is sitting there. I was able to get the 50th in front of all of them in this historic venue.”
The 35-year-old Kohli, nicknamed “The King” in India and arguably the world’s most famous cricketer, is 15 years into his ODI career.
He scored his first hundred in the format — 107 off 114 balls — against Sri Lanka at Kolkata in December 2009 and rose to stardom with 133 not out off 86 balls against Sri Lanka at Hobart in a tri-series also involving Australia.
He scored a career-high 183 against Pakistan in 2012 then notched the fastest-ever ODI hundred for an Indian batter — off just 52 balls — against Australia at Jaipur in October 2013.
While Kohli has scored three hundreds in the current tournament, he had previously made only two hundreds in his three previous World Cups.
He finished the group stage as the top run-scorer in the tournament with 594 and averaging exactly 99. That figure is now up to 101.57.
“All this for me feels like a dream, honestly,” Kohli said. “It’s too good to be true. I never thought I’d be here in my career.
“Big game today and I had to play the role I’ve played throughout the tournament so the guys around me can go and express themselves. Just glad that everything has come together so nicely.”