Virat Kohli & R Ashwin – The rise and rise of India’s match-winning duo in 2016
Since taking over the Test captaincy from Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Indian Test skipper Virat Kohli has been in the form of his life. While 2016 was an incredible year for the prolific batsman across formats, the foundation was laid in December 2014, when India toured Australia.
Having noticed Kohli’s rare struggle against James Anderson & Co during India’s tour to England in 2014, the Australian team would have planned to add to his misery with a decent pace attack.
But Kohli, who loves challenges and is keen to improve his game whenever he gets an opportunity, had ironed his flaws before hitting the Australian soil. Much to the dismay of local fans, Kohli increased his stature by hitting a record four centuries Down Under, which included a brilliant ton in first innings as India’s Test skipper at Sydney Cricket Ground.
After a not-so-good 2015 in Tests, Kohli found his rhythm in 2016, where he was the most dominant batsman across formats. His aggression has rubbed upon his team-mates too, as India won back-to-back series in the traditional format of the game. By the end of the year, he had led India to a record five successive series wins in a row.
From limited-overs series against Australia, to Asia Cup 2016, to ICC World Twenty20, Kohli stamped his authority in several tournaments as he looked unstoppable. Even in the Indian Premier League, where he did not have a single century to his name (despite playing all seasons), Kohli once again raised the level of his performances and hammered four centuries and scored over 900 runs. The highlight of the series was a special knock where he hit a century with over eight stitches in his left hand.
Another Indian cricketer, who made headlines in 2016 with his consistent performances, was Ravichandran Ashwin.
In one of the interviews this year, Ashwin said that his aim is not only to bowl quality off-spin, but to become the best bowler in the world. And with each passing series, he has done exactly that. The art with which he is regularly bagging five-wicket hauls in Test matches, is bound to make other players envy of him.
Ever since Anil Kumble took over as the coach of the Indian cricket team, the team management gave Ashwin the responsibility to bat at number six and he hasn’t let them down. Ashwin, the batsman, has scored two centuries and three half centuries this year. He has all shots in his repertoire, and has won praise from the experts for contributing heavily lower down the order.
Ashwin’s winning mindset is a big headache for all the skippers. From spoiling Kumar Sangakkara’s farewell series in Sri Lanka, to troubling AB de Villiers when South Africa toured India, Ashwin has a plan in mind to bamboozle the best in the business. He has been in sensational form in the last one and a half year and just like Kohli, he too has taken his game to a different level this year.
It's incredible to see how consistent have Kohli and Ashwin been with their centuries and five-fers this year. Some might argue that most of their performances have come at home, but even under favourable conditions, it’s close to impossible to achieve what these two have.
While most of the Indian cricketers have performed well this year, none have come remotely close to Kohli and Ashwin, whose insatiable hunger to remain being best in the business separates them from modern-day cricketers.