New Delhi (Reuters) - Virat Kohli had just turned 18 when his father passed away on a cold December morning in 2006. Within hours, the overnight batsman was back at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium to help Delhi avoid the follow-on in a Ranji Trophy match.
“I called my coach in the morning,” he would later tell CNN. “I said I wanted to play because for me not completing a cricket game is a sin.”
It is this all-consuming passion that fuels the high-octane game of the 30-year-old who marries aggression and aesthetics in his batting, solemnizing it with a single-minded devotion to his craft.
Hailing from a city notorious for its bad air and brash youth, Kohli has evolved from a reckless talent to a modern great of the game after an avalanche of runs across all formats.
Endowed with a water-tight defence and a 360 degree shotmaking ability, he has been most dominating in one-dayers though.
Of his 66 international centuries, 41 are in ODIs, more than half of it while chasing, earning him the ‘chase master’ moniker.
And a significant chunk of it came as captain of the world’s most followed cricket team, a massive burden that reduced several of his predecessors to lesser batsmen.
He became the first player to win all three top honours at the ICC awards after his annus mirabilis last year.
Kohli the captain now wants to emulate Kohli the batsman.
The ambitious India captain has talked about his desire to forge an all-time great team, one which would win across formats and irrespective of conditions, and he has had significant success in the longest format.
Under him, India have won eight consecutive test series and remained the top-ranked team in this format.
They are near-invincible at home and ended a seven-decade drought in January with India’s first ever test series victory in Australia.
A supreme athlete himself, Kohli has inspired a fitness revolution in Indian cricket that has percolated down to the Ranji level and even deeper.
The rich success notwithstanding, Kohli is still not ranked alongside former captains such as Mahendra Singh Dhoni or Sourav Ganguly but coach Ravi Shastri is convinced he will get better.
"...Tactically, there is still room for plenty of improvement as captain," Shastri told www.cricbuzz.come after the series victory in Australia.
“He has gotten better and better ... and I thought in the Australian test series, tactically he outsmarted Australia.
“I still see more room across formats for him to evolve. As a captain, Virat will evolve further.”
Kohli led India to the Under-19 World Cup title in 2008 and was part of the team that won the 2011 title at home.
He now needs the stamp of a 50-overs World Cup to build his own legacy as one of India’s greatest captains.
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Pritha Sarkar