Virat Kohli destined for greatness?
“It has been nearly 20 hours since Virat Kohli last scored a century against Sri Lanka,” tweeted Ramesh Srivats, one of the wittiest men on Twitter, the very next day after Virat scored the 12th ton of his ODI career. The tweet sums up the fact that Kohli has become a new symbol of consistency in the cricketing world. Four centuries in the last five ODIs. Five consecutive scores of over fifty. A 50-plus average after 86 matches. These are amazing stats. And these would look more remarkable when you juxtapose him against some other greats, who are still playing with him or against him; for comparing two players of different eras does not always do justice to both the players.
The best in the business, Sachin Tendulkar, needed 79 matches and almost 5 years to get his first ODI ton – though he had by then had quite a few Test centuries to his name. But once Sachin got the taste of a century, he never looked back. Centuries never stopped flowing from his majestic blade. After that maiden ton, he scored 48 more in ODIs to take his tally to a record 49, the highest in the world.
Let us compare Virat with two of his illustrious Delhi and India teammates, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. Sehwag played 247 ODIs. He hit 15 centuries, just 3 more than Virat. Gambhir has played 136 ODIs. But Virat has already gotten past Gambhir’s 10 centuries. The Sri Lankan great Kumar Sangakkara, who also scored a century along with Virat in the first match of the ongoing series, albeit in a losing cause, has 14 centuries from 332 matches, while Mahela Jayawardene scored 15 in 380 ODIs. Australian captain Michael Clarke has just 7 ODI centuries while England’s star Kevin Pietersen has just 9.
What makes Kohli an exceptional talent or, rather a performer now, is that he has out-performed the bests of his generation. Time will tell how many more ODI tons Virat will score, for ‘consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life’. But what he has done so far is nothing but phenomenal. It makes him the most likely candidate to break Sachin’s record of highest ODI tons, if at all ODI cricket survives the test of time.
Not only is he an amazing talent, but an interesting case study in cricket. It is said that the way a batsman plays is an extension of his character. Virat the man, to some extent Virat the fielder, and Virat the batsman are completely different entities. While he is an aggressive, hot-headed, fun-loving, party-going boy, his batting remains an old-styled one. His success lies in this very fact that he never allowed his personality to ‘corrupt’ his batting, which is risk-free, methodical and practical.
You will never find him attempting an unorthodox shot in the start of his innings. He plays the modern game like a player of the 70s or 80s, in calm, composed and assured manner. This is despite the fact that he does have enough shots in his book. It has never happened that he has struggled to play aggressive cricket like Rahul Dravid once experienced in ODIs. His two recent innings, an 86-ball unbeaten 133 and a 148-ball 183, against Sri Lanka and Pakistan respectively, proves that he is not bound by any limitation, but by a combination of some fine skills- discipline, determination and concentration. No doubt these are the hallmarks of his batting which set him apart from his contemporaries like Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Cheteshwar Pujara or Ajinkya Rahane.
For a 23-year-old guy who lost his way initially for a brief period after his international debut in 2008, success came very fast and very early, too. That he took everything for granted, or that he did not pay heed to the seniors of his team is nothing but an immaturity of a boy who lost his father at a tender age of 17. It’s an age when one easily falls prey to the vices of life. Sometimes we fail to understand, but it is not easy for a teenager to remain level-headed when success chases you, when people throng to have a glimpse of you. You suddenly start thinking that you can do everything, and can get away with it.
Virat Kohli’s tryst with success started with a thumping win in the Under-19 World Cup in 2008. He batted well, captained superbly to help Indian colts become the World Champions. Virat was hailed as the next big thing. And within 6 months, he was drafted into the Indian team for the ODI series in Sri Lanka. He did reasonably well, but not that well that he could cement his place at the highest level. He was left out of the Indian team. Reports of him being arrogant or a spoilt guy started doing the rounds. Seemed like another case of talent being wasted.
But boy, he came back and how! One year in wilderness, and he made a strong comeback. Since then, he never looked back. It’s been only an upwards journey for him. His ODI success helped him get a place in the Test team. After the initial hiccups, he finally heralded himself during the tour Down Under with a fine century at Adelaide.
Kohli’s success continued. He was handed the vice-captaincy in the Asia Cup post India’s debacle in Australia. He celebrated it with two fine centuries and then followed it with another ton in Sri Lanka. The additional responsibility of being the vice-captain of the Indian team at 23 seems to have not gone to his head. It seems that he has already learnt his lessons in life, for only fools need more than one failure to rectify themselves.
He may not be as attractive or elegant as Rohit, nor as technically correct as Pujara, but he has what it takes to be a great cricketer - an insatiable hunger for runs, a criterion which differentiates the good from the greats.
The stats used here after the 1st ODI of the India-Sri Lanka ODI series which took place on 21st July, 2012
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