India’s Virat Kohli says he was “pleasantly surprised” to get his much anticipated century in the short format as he aims for more runs in the upcoming T20 World Cup. Kohli scored his 71st international ton on Thursday – his first ever in a T20 for India – after a 1,020-day hiatus to help India finish the Asian Cup with a landslide win over Afghanistan in Dubai. India’s campaign in the tournament ended early after losing their first two Super 4 matches to Pakistan and Sri Lanka – the teams that made it to Sunday’s final with two wins each.
But Kohli shook off his long dry run with the bat to score two consecutive half-centuries and then an unbeaten 122 from 61 balls to lead the tournament’s battle card so far with 276 runs in five games.
“This tournament was important to us,” Kohli said in an interview with skipper Rohit Sharma on India’s cricket board website.
“We had to deal with a knockout phase, from being under pressure, but our goal is the World Cup in Australia and we improve as a team. We will learn from the games that did not go as planned.”
Kohli, 33, took a month-long break from touring the West Indies and Zimbabwe to come back fresh for the tournament, which acts as a precursor to the flagship T20.
During the tournament, Kohli spoke of mental issues in his skinny patch and only former captain MS Dhoni reached out to him when he stepped down as test skipper.
“The way you all gave me space, I felt relaxed,” Kohli told Rohit.
“I was excited and had to play like this because we have the big World Cup and if I play well I can contribute more to the team.”
Kohli crushed two half-centuries against Hong Kong and then Pakistan, albeit in a losing case, but his final innings cleared any doubts about his form.
The usually aggressive Kohli, who is married to Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma, celebrated the milestone with a wave of the bat and smiled before taking off his gloves to kiss his wedding ring.
“To be honest, I was shocked that after a long time a century comes first in this format,” said Kohli, who was visibly happy after the knock and broke into a mold while fielding, laughing.
“I was pleasantly surprised and very grateful and honored at this point.”
Kohli’s longtime IPL friend and former teammate at Royal Challengers Bangalore AB de Villiers tweeted: “@imVkohli dancing again! What a beautiful sight.
“When I spoke to him yesterday, I knew something was brewing. Well played, my friend.”
KL Rahul, who shared an opening score of 119 with Kohli in the win in Afghanistan, said: “There was no difference in his mentality, attitude and work ethic in the last 2-3 years, or before, when he scored 100s every second game. “
Kohli hit 12 fours and six sixes as he slammed the Afghan bowlers to all parts of the ground.
“I’m very happy, especially from the team’s point of view, to be back in my template that I’ve been playing for a while,” said the former captain.
“Which I left because I was a little desperate to do something that’s not in my game.”
The star batter, dubbed “King Kohli” for his prolific scoring, has also racked up 27 Test and 43 ODI centuries in a stellar international career that started in 2008 with an ODI in Sri Lanka.
India will host Australia and South Africa for white-ball matches before going Down Under in their bid to end an ICC title drought.
India won the previous Asian Cup, in a 50-over format, in 2018, but their last ICC trophy came with the 2013 Champions Trophy, but Kohli remains confident of a good show in the coming months.
“I see the coming months as a great phase where we play against quality teams, we go to Australia, we have preparation time and I have no doubt that we will be absolutely ready for the first game of the World Cup,” he said.
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