183, 66, 108 and 133. Even though he has proved his abilities in the past, these four knocks scored by Virat Kohli in his last four outings will be remembered as the turning point of his career. He has learned one thing from his seniors and that is to put a price on his wicket. It is not that the debating societies did not appreciate his talent on previous occasions, but these are the memorable innings which have answered all the remaining ifs and buts surrounding him.
Just three years back, Kohli was a youngster who was yet to cement a place in the team. Players like Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma were considered more capable and talented than the then 20-year old. It was a phase when Kohli decided to play as if every innings was his last and three years down the line, such is his form, that he is now the vice-captain of the Indian cricket team. Ever since he was handed over the vice captaincy, the Delhi lad has produced several match winning knocks. This year, he has already
scored 730 runs at an average of 75 in 11 ODIs. Even in 2011, Kohli finished at the top of ODI charts with 1381 runs at an avg. of 47.62 with a maximum four centuries in the calendar year.
Here is a reminder of how India achieved what seemed impossible with the help of Virat Kohli on two occasions.
After a forgettable tour Down Under, India had the last chance to salvage some pride in their last ODI against Sri Lanka at Hobart, Australia. In order to keep their hopes alive in the competition, India needed to defeat Sri Lanka comprehensively that too with a bonus point. When Sri Lanka scored 320 runs at the end of 50 overs, the match seemed to be over for most of the cricket fans as India needed to chase the huge total within 40 overs to win a bonus point. Chasing the total in itself was probably a tough task, and that too within 40 overs seemed like an impossible task. Having lost the openers Sachin and Sehwag for paltry scores, the Sri Lankan supporters became jubilant. Little did they know that one of the best ODI chase was yet to be seen. Kohli began milking singles with his evergreen partner Gautam Gambhir and later on changed the gear. He derailed Malinga in particular who gave away 96 runs in 7.4 overs as India successfully chased the target with 80 balls remaining.
A clash against Pakistan is in itself something after which the rest of the tournament becomes inconsequential. Having been stunned by Bangladesh on their home soil after 5 years, India had to defeat Pakistan, thankfully not with a bonus point this time! The arch rivals, facing each other after their semi-final clash in the World Cup last year were once again determined to prove their mettle. Indian fans who turned in plenty at the Shere Bhangla stadium soon dozed off as Pakistan openers scored 224 runs without loss. Pakistan scored 329 runs which meant India were to chase their highest total since the NatWest series final, 2002. India lost Gambhir of a nought and unperturbed with the pressure and cheering from the fans, Kohli walked in to bat with his childhood hero. He went on to add 133 runs with Tendulkar followed by a 172-run-partnership with Rohit Sharma. The Delhi lad went on to score 183 runs off 148 balls which was his 11th ODI ton.
It is after a long time that Indian cricket has achieved enormous female fan following. And as we know, the reason cannot be cricket. Yes, it’s because of the man who has been enjoying his game for quite some time now. And he might be the most consistent batsman of the squad, but apart from crushing the bowlers all across the world, Kohli has certainly knocked down the hearts of many girls as well. His mother would be a worried lady. More than the cricket experts, media ‘Virat Kohli’ is being googled on the internet by his massive female fan following who are crazy about him.
The 23-year-old came into limelight when he scored 90 runs playing against Karnataka on a day when he lost his father Prem Kohli in the year 2006. Delhi players needed him desperately yet his team mates were surprised when they saw him return to play. At the age of 18, such spirit for the game is highly commendable. And having grown up watching Tendulkar bringing laurels to the country, Kohli seems to have the same commitment towards the game.
In an open letter which he wrote to Tendulkar after he scored his 100th ton, he mentioned, like many others, he too is a huge fan of Sachin and it was the Little Master who made him take up the game. As he considers Tendulkar his childhood hero, there is something which he needs to learn from the Master, discipline. Tendulkar has had failures and tough phases, but wherever he tours, the audience treat him with utmost respect and love. It has been his dignity and discipline towards the game both on and off the field that has earned him enormous respect all across the world.
Kohli’s reaction after scoring a ton at Hobart was very pleasing to see. One of the best ODI batsmen Mahela Jayawardene walked up to him and gave a pat on his head for his huge innings. The gesture easily said ‘Well played boy’ and it was the subtle reaction for which he was praised by the rival skipper. In case if he had reacted in his 'own way' Jayawardene would or would not have congratulated him.
Something which I dislike about Kohli is the way he spoils the moment of celebration by vomiting slangs which don’t look good on screen. Whether it is a brilliant century or when he pulls off a blinder, the barrage of slangs spoil it all. His short temper is something which can work against him. At times when a batsman is well set, opponents often use ways to perturb the concentration. Kohli is such a gifted player but till now the teams would have noticed his habit of being proactive. According to me, aggression, which is his strength, might also work as a weakness for him. A well set innings of his could be ruined as a result of some provocation from the opponents. Especially when he plays against a side like Australia, he needs to keep himself cool as the Kangaroos will use all verbal measures to hamper his concentration.
India’s future seems to be in the safe hands, as Kohli is a player who apart from good looks has the killer instinct which has been missing from Indian cricket for quite some time. Even though he has shown enough maturity as a 23-year-old, he still needs to work on is his temperament. Moreover, with such a talent and with so much media hype, it is important for the youngster to keep himself grounded. When a cricketer starts to perform well in India, the brands automatically follow. And a young Turk like Kohli shall get plenty of those. It is a phase which can make or break him.
In the next few years, Kohli is likely to be handed over the responsibility to lead the side. So, it is of utmost importance for him to stay grounded so that the country can witness one of the finest cricketers in world cricket for a longer period of time. With the kind of form Kohli is in, with his flawless technique, without an iota of doubt one can conclude -- Virat Kohli is ‘the next big thing in Indian cricket.’
(The views expressed by the author are personal)