“Every opportunity to play for India is a great opportunity for me. To be able to do it on my birthday, in front of the entire crowd, is a dream, something that when I was a kid you wish had happened,” Kohli said after his equalizing innings records. “I am very grateful to God for having been blessed with these types of moments, with so much love from the fans as well and to continue helping the team in any way possible.”
Kohli reached the record hundred off 119 balls, reaching the milestone in India’s 49th innings by hitting Kagiso Rabada to cover a single in front of a near-capacity crowd at Eden Gardens. While Tendulkar scored his 49th century in his 451st ODI innings, Kohli got there in only his 277th innings in his 289th match. He finished unbeaten on 101 off 126 balls, having taken India to a total of 326.
Kohli started his innings in the sixth over and then India lost Shubman Gill in the 10th over, with the score 93 for 2. “It was a tough wicket to bat on,” Kohli said. “We got off to a great start through Rohit and Shubman, and then when I came in, my job was to keep that momentum going, but as soon as the ten overs were over, the ball started to catch and the wicket started to go down as the ball grew older.
“Our roles are different – Shreyas and I wanted to form a partnership and to be honest, as soon as we lost Shubman and Rohit in ten overs, my role was to bat deep and bat till the end because that’s what I’m done to. over the years and that’s what the team communication was good, I bat and the guys bat around me and then Shreyas started batting some. So we weren’t thinking we would get 327 but that’s what happens when If you take the game to the last few overs, you can get a few more than you thought.”
He and Shreyas Iyer kept India’s momentum going with a third-wicket stand of 134 off 158 balls. “We had a lot of practice sessions before we went to the Asia Cup. Shreyas and I invariably bat together, because numbers 3 and 4, against spinners. And I spoke to him: ‘This is the partnership that has to take center stage throughout of the middle overs. So we both felt quite comfortable rotating the strike against the spinners. Any loose ball he had, he saved, credit to him. Like I said, when you lose two wickets and don’t have Hardik in your team, you need to bat deep and make sure you get to a stage where the opposition feels that we have to restrict them, rather than thinking that we are one wicket away from 30 races less than we had to chase. “The situation and the rotation of strikes was the key.”
With seven wins in seven matches, India was the first team to qualify for the World Cup semi-finals.