India’s Virat Kohli says he was “pleasantly surprised” to score a century in the long-awaited short format as he aimed to score more runs in the upcoming T20 World Cup. Kohli on Thursday scored his 71st international century – his first in T20Is for India – after a gap of 1,020 days to help India end the Asia Cup with a crushing win over Afghanistan in Dubai. India’s campaign in the tournament came to an early end after losing their first two Super 4 matches to Pakistan and Sri Lanka – the teams which won two each in the final on Sunday.
But Kohli propelled his extended dry run with the bat to score two consecutive half-centuries and then an unbeaten 122 off 61 balls to lead the tournament batting charts with 276 runs from five matches.
“This tournament was important for us,” Kohli said in an interview with skipper Rohit Sharma on the Indian Cricket Board’s website.
“We experienced a knockout phase of being under pressure, but our target is the World Cup in Australia and we are improving as a team. We will learn from matches that didn’t go our way.”
The 33-year-old Kohli took a month-long break from tours of West Indies and Zimbabwe to make a fresh comeback for the tournament, which serves as the precursor to the T20 showpiece event.
During the tournament, Kohli spoke of a mental struggle in his lean patch and only former captain MS Dhoni reached out to him when he stepped down as Test captain.
Kohli told Rohit, “The way you all have given me space, I feel relieved.”
“I was excited and I had to play like this because we have a big World Cup coming up and if I play well I can contribute more to the team.”
Kohli hit two half-centuries against Hong Kong and then Pakistan in the defeat, but his latest innings dispelled any doubts on his form.
The usually aggressive Kohli, who is married to Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma, celebrated the milestone with a bat and a smile before taking off his gloves to kiss his wedding ring.
“To be honest, I was surprised that a century would come first in this format after a long time,” said Kohli, who looked happy after the knock and was seen breaking into a jig while fielding.
“I was pleasantly surprised and very grateful and honored at this time.”
Kohli’s longtime IPL friend and former Royal Challengers Bangalore teammate AB de Villiers tweeted: “@imVkohli is dancing again! What a lovely sight.
“When I spoke to him yesterday I knew something was cooking, well played my friend.”
KL Rahul, who shared a 119-run partnership with Kohli in Afghanistan’s win, said: “In the last 2-3 years or so when he scored every 100 runs, there was no difference in his mindset, attitude and work ethic. There was no difference. Second game.”
Kohli smashed the Afghan bowlers in all parts of the field, hitting 12 fours and six sixes.
“I am very happy, especially from the team’s point of view, that I am back to play in the format that I have played for a while,” the former captain said.
“Which I was walking away from because I was desperate to do something that’s not in my game.”
Called “King Kohli” for his scintillating scoring, the star batsman has also scored 27 Test and 43 ODI hundreds in an illustrious international career, which began with an ODI in Sri Lanka in 2008.
India will host Australia and South Africa for white-ball matches before going Down Under in their attempt to end the ICC title drought.
India won the last Asia Cup in the 50-over format in 2018 but their last ICC trophy came with the 2013 Champions Trophy, but Kohli is confident of a decent show in the months to come.
“I see the next few months as a great phase where we play with good teams, we go to Australia, we have time to prepare and I have no doubt that we will be ready for the World Cup,” he said. Will be fully prepared in the first match.”
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