Virat Kohli stands on the cusp of many milestones before the IPL 2016 final against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday: The first batsman to make 1000 runs in a single season, the first IPL-winning captain for Royal Challengers Bangalore, the first batsman to win the orange cap and the coveted trophy.
More than the milestones, though, Kohli would want to hold the trophy - one that eluded Royal Challengers in 2009, against Deccan Chargers, and two years later, against Chennai Super Kings. He hardly made an impact in those finals, scoring 7 against Chargers and 35 against Super Kings.
On Sunday, Kohli will walk on to the field as the batsman of the tournament, and as one of the contenders for the title of the Most Valuable Player, competing with Sunrisers captain David Warner and a team-mate he has called a genius, AB de Villiers.
While Kohli has raised the bar, Warner and de Villiers, like a jugalbandi of sorts, have improvised. This may have been a weaker tournament for the bowlers, but these three batsmen have played on a different plane. They have not buckled under pressure; only shown presence of mind that must be admired.
Kohli and Royal Challengers are the story of this IPL. Kohli's raging form has not only spurred his team-mates but has also raised fans' expectations and, incredibly, he has surpassed those expectations most times.
Royal Challengers are also the only team in this IPL to have transcended franchise-based boundaries of fan loyalty. You only need to hear thousands screaming 'R-C-B, R-C-B' at a grand venue like Eden Gardens to understand how Kohli and the team have entrenched themselves into the hearts and minds of fans across the country.
This is not the first season in which Kohli has struck big runs. He was the second-highest run-scorer in 2011, third in 2013, and fifth last season. What has probably changed for him and the team is the confidence that they can pull themselves out of any situation.
Kohli is known to play his cricket with intensity and a thick tide of emotions that can make some people uncomfortable. He has not, however, allowed outside emotions to influence him and has focused instead on his job to perform, lead the side ably and succeed.
Even when he took over as Test captain in Australia in 2014, many pundits, especially in India, were unimpressed by his naked emotions and thought he would exhaust his energies swiftly. Yet, Kohli managed to push the Test team to fight hard against the home side.
Leading a franchise team comes with its own set of expectations, different to captaining a national or state team. Franchise owners are happy to shell out big money at the auction, but they want the team to win at any cost. Owners might be interested in cricket, or pretend to be, but they are more interested in the bottom line and winning the IPL is big business.
At Royal Challengers, Kohli has grown from an uncapped player in 2008 to their most valuable asset in eight years. In this IPL, he has been everything from a Man Friday to a general. Winning the IPL does not compare to winning the World Cup but this season has further attested Kohli's credentials as a leader. He has inscribed the winning mentality in the minds of his players by scripting performances that have been extraordinary and evocative. The one thing that matters to him is 100% application from himself and his players.
On the eve of the final, Kohli was fluid in the nets till he missed the line of a ball from left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla. He reacted with a shriek of disgust. The standards he has set himself are of a champion who wants to win.