When you hear jersey number 18 in the cricketing circles, there is only one name that comes to mind and it is that of Virat Kohli. The current Indian Test captain is arguably one of the greatest ever cricketers to have played the game in this generation. He has been supremely consistent across all formats and almost every time that he walks on to the field, there is one or the other record that he breaks or sets.
Kohli has been playing international cricket for more than 13 and a half years now and he has been donning the jersey number 18 right from the start. There is a special and an emotional reason behind this number ‘18’ that Kohli wears on his back.
The year was 2006 when the Delhi-born cricketer’s beloved father Prem Kohli passed away. The date of the senior Kohli passing away was 18th of December and Kohli was also 18 years old at that stage. It was Kohli’s father who constantly pushed him to pursue his dream of playing for India. He took a young Virat to coaching classes and helped him train through his younger days. Hence, as a tribute to his late father, Kohli has always donned number ‘18’ on his back.
Virat Kohli was in the middle of a Ranji Trophy game and was also the unbeaten batter overnight when he heard the news of his father’s death. Despite that, he went on to bat the next day and scored a fighting 90 after Delhi were reduced to 14 for four in their first innings chasing Karnataka’s first innings score of 446. Kohli was unfairly given out caught-behind but that knock went a long way in helping his state side Delhi avoid the follow-on and eventually draw the game.
It was a knock that showcased so many of Kohli’s skills and his temperament. That 90 made his stand out and it made the selectors take notice of him. It didn’t take long for Kohli to come in the spotlight and make a name for himself. In the following two years or so, Kohli went on to become one of the big things in Indian cricket.
The Delhi-born cricketer led the Indian side to the title of the Under-19 Cricket World Cup in 2008. In the same year, he got to make his international debut. From 2009, he even became one of the regulars in the Indian ODI setup.
Since then, Kohli hasn't looked back. No other player around the world has scored more runs than him in international cricket since his debut. Neither has any player scored more hundreds than him across the three formats combined. Such has been Kohli’s consistency and the impact he’s had with the bat in the Indian team.
Overall, Kohli has smashed 23197 runs at an average of 54.96 across the three formats in his career so far. He has recorded 70 hundreds and 118 fifties. Out of the above stats, 7801 runs and 27 tons have come in Test cricket while 12169 runs and 43 centuries have come in the ODI format. In T20Is, he has accumulated 3327 runs which includes 29 half-centuries.
Furthermore, as captain, he has been absolutely brilliant and his records speak for himself. He has gone on to become the most successful Indian Test captain of all-time and the Indian Test side under him look almost unstoppable at the moment. They’ve reached unreal heights and is arguably the best ever Indian team in the history of the game. India, under Kohli, have won 39 games and have lost just 16 while 11 games have been drawn.
His white-ball captaincy exploits are not too far behind. India have a win percentage of 70.43% under Kohli in ODI cricket – 65 wins and 27 losses. They reached the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy and the semi-finals of the 2019 Cricket World Cup. Meanwhile, in T20Is, he has captained in 50 matches, returning with 30 wins and 16 losses alongside two ties and two no-results.
Kohli’s father may not have been able to see his dream of watching his son play for Indian come true but the Delhi-born cricketer has ensured he has left no stone unturned in fulfilling his father’s dream. There is absolutely no doubt that Kohli will go down as one of the best-ever to have donned the Indian jersey and the legacy of jersey number ‘18’ will forever be etched in the memory of fans, even after he bids adieu to the game. As they did with Sachin Tendulkar’s jersey number ‘10’, there is a significant chance that the BCCI and the Indian team could well unofficially retire the jersey number ‘18’ once Kohli stops playing cricket.