When Virat Kohli made his debut against Sri Lanka on August 18, 2008, Rohit Sharma had already played 23 ODIs by that time. Even though Kohli was the skipper of the U-19 World Cup winning team, nobody rated him above Sharma, who was tagged as the most `talented` batsman of the modern era. Kohli wasn’t the most prolific batsman the cricketing fraternity had been waiting for, but in a very short span, he not only became one, but stunned everybody with his incredible consistency and an insatiable hunger for runs.
Look at the irony - When Sharma recently completed his 100th ODI against Zimbabwe, a feat he achieved after some terrific backing from the veterans in the team, Kohli had already played 110 ODIs. Not only that, while the Delhi batsman has played 18 Tests, Sharma who made his debut more than a year before him, is yet to make his Test debut!
The best part about Kohli has been his tendency to bounce back after working on his flaws. Even after playing 100 ODIs, the team can’t rely on Sharma, who has frequently failed to convert good scores into big knocks.
Talking about Kohli’s centuries, he has scored 15 in ODIs and four in Tests. Everybody is now talking about how the right-hander can surpass Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 49 centuries in the shorter format of the game. While the Little Master slammed these tons in 452 innings, Kohli has so far hit 15 from just 106 innings.
Kohli not only became the youngest batsman to reach 15 ODI tons but also the fastest. Fifteen centuries are no joke. His feat can be ascertained from the fact that Sri Lankan veteran Mahela Jayawardene has scored 16 centuries in his entire ODI career till date. On the other hand, Sharma has scored just two centuries, which came in successive matches against Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka in 2010.
When Kohli made his ODI debut against Sri Lanka in 2008, a series where he accumulated 161 runs from six matches, little did the Lankans know that he would soon single-handedly demolish their bowling attack, with no mercy to even Lasith Malinga. Malinga’s formidable pace looks nothing more than mediocre bowling when he bowls to Kohli, who dispatches his perfect yorkers for boundaries.
The only thing for which Kohli has been criticised every now and then is his aggression. But the fans and even the experts have realised by now, that aggression is his driving force. India’s stand-in skipper recently said that playing aggressive cricket is something which gets the best out of him. Of late, he has shown a lot of maturity which has certainly improved his batting.
While Kohli continues to comprehensively score runs in all formats of the game, Sharma’s performances are limited to the Indian Premier League and a few series. He played some promising innings in the recently concluded tri-series played in West Indies but has once again disappointed in Zimbabwe, the moment we thought he would now relish his role as an opener. The coach and the veterans can help him overcome his technical flaws, but mindset is something which Sharma himself will have to deal with.
He might be the most talented batsman in the world, most god-gifted batsman of modern era, but Sharma’s inconsistency continues to baffle the Indian cricket fans, who still want to know what makes him an inseparable part of the squad? Meanwhile, Kohli is probably the best thing that has happened to Indian cricket in the last five years and he is surely meant to break several records. Clichéd it might sound, but India’s future is in safe hands.