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How Virat Kohli made 2023 ODI World Cup his own

NEW DELHI: Besides the title-winning six from Mahendra Singh Dhoni's willow, Virat Kohli carrying batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar on his shoulders remains a cherished memory for billions of Indian fans who have the scenes from the victorious 2011 World Cup celebrations at the iconic Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai close to their hearts.


A little over a decade since that day, Virat found himself on a near-similar pedestal as batting legend Tendulkar, minus the World Cup trophy in his hands, which would have completed the picture.





Virat was 23 when India, led by Dhoni, lifted the World Cup at home 12 years ago. India waited 28 years since the maiden triumph under Kapil Dev in 1983 to win another ODI World Cup on that momentous night. But the same couldn't be achieved in Ahmedabad on Sunday.

A young Virat, while sharing the dressing room with the legends during the 2011 World Cup, managed to pick brains of his idol Tendulkar and senior pros like Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan. What Tendulkar was to Virat then, Virat is to the youngsters in the current Indian team.

Players like Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan, Shreyas Iyer and Mohammed Siraj all look up to him.

And at the just-concluded ODI World Cup, he added to his legacy that a generation of cricketers will look to emulate.



With 765 runs in 11 matches, including the record-breaking 50th ODI century, Virat undoubtedly made this World Cup his own. The trophy would have been the icing on the cake, but Australia proved to be the better team on Sunday, winning their sixth title.

Three centuries and six half centuries - that's how Virat stamped his authority in the 13th edition of the quadrennial event and was deservingly named 'Player of the Tournament'.

But a dream remained unfulfilled for Virat -- lifting the coveted trophy and going a step ahead of Tendulkar by becoming a double ODI World Cup-winner.

Just after the medal distribution ceremony, Virat covered his face with a cap and quietly made his way towards the dressing room -- hiding a sea of emotions on his face and the lump in his throat

Reuters Photo

BIRTHDAY-BOY VIRAT'S SPECIAL 49

Ahead of the World Cup, the 35-year-old run-machine played five matches in the Asia Cup and notched up a century, his 47th in ODIs, against arch-rivals Pakistan when he scored a brilliant 122 not out off 94 balls.

Oozing with confidence and determination, Virat took his game to a different level in the World Cup. He looked calm and composed, and scored 85 runs in India's opening match against Australia. He missed on a century, but bailed the team out, along with KL Rahul, to ensure the hosts started their campaign on a winning note.



He didn't have to wait longer to equal his childhood hero Tendulkar's record of 49 ODI centuries.

The 48th ton came in Pune, when Virat came up with a spectacular 103 not out against Bangladesh. In the team's penultimate league match against South Africa, Virat smashed 101 not out off 121 balls on his birthday to silence his critics. The tally of his ODI tons reached 49, equal to Tendulkar's.

The birthday-boy removed his helmet, raised his bat and looked up to the sky to celebrate the milestone. That was a perfect birthday gift for Virat, from Virat.



THE 50th, AND THE BOW

"Well played Virat. It took me 365 days to go from 49 to 50 earlier this year. I hope you go from 49 to 50 and break my record in the next few days. Congratulations" - this was the message Tendulkar posted just after Virat's record-equalling 49 centuries.

The 35-year-old had the stage set. Time was apt, the occasion big and Virat did it in style.

In the semifinal vs New Zealand, he scored his 50th ODI century. He broke Tendulkar's record in front of the master at his home ground and in front of a jam-packed and roaring Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

Virat got down on his knees and soaked in the applause from the fans. He then stood up and bowed down towards the stand where Tendulkar was sitting. Sachin too stood up and applauded Virat from the stands. It was one of the most iconic moments of this World Cup.

AP Photo

VIRAT'S WORLD CUP DOMINATION

With three centuries and six fifties, Virat signed off the tournament as leading run-scorer.

In 11 matches, he scored 765 runs at an astonishing average of 95.62, becoming the batter with most runs in a single edition of the ODI World Cup.

The Indian run-machine surpassed the tally of 673 runs scored by a single batter in the 2003 World Cup. Again, it was a record that stood in the name of his idol, Tendulkar.