An open letter to Virat Kohli from a Sachin Tendulkar fan
You are now the best batsman of modern day cricket. No bowling attack has been able to dislodge you. You have tamed every opposition and vanquished every challenge that came your way. You have already scored over 10,000 ODI runs, with a stunning 39 hundreds.
But then, dear Virat, I have not been able to enjoy your batting. And that is through no fault of your own.
For, before you arrived onto the international scene in 2008, I had been held captive by a man called Sachin Tendulkar.
In fact, even you grew up watching Sachin bat, and someday wanted to become like him, isn't that right?
Once a fan has given his heart to Tendulkar, once he has experienced the master’s resplendent stroke-play, it is just very difficult for him to imagine any other mortal batsman on the same pedestal as Tendulkar.
And as I write about our role model (for the both of us), a wave of memories floods my mind. That chilly morning in Auckland in 1994, when Tendulkar, barely 20 years old, smashed an ethereal 49 ball 82 - a totally unheard of feat in those days.
Then, of course, came that desert storm innings in 1998. The best bowling attack of all time was smashed to a pulp. Shane Warne looked stunned, and Michael Kasprowicz completely bewildered. Tony Greig in the commentary box went absolutely wild, screeching, “What a player!!!” at the top of his voice.
You were just 10 years old at that time, weren't you Virat? Didn’t you get captivated by that knock?
Then came that magnificent 98 against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup. That back foot punch off Wasim Akram, that slashed six off Shoaib Akhtar over backward point. You had just entered your teens, hadn't you?
And then came that age-defying 175 from the master’s willow in the year 2009, against the Aussies. It was at this time that you had just entered the Indian team. You were a talented new kid on the block, and you were living your dream of sharing the dressing room with our hero.
Tendulkar defied time on that day. He deluded all of us into believing that time was nothing more than a mere illusion.
Then came the 2011 World Cup. Amidst all the euphoria surrounding the historic triumph, there is this one moment that is etched in our minds - that of you carrying Tendulkar on your shoulders.
You spoke of Tendulkar’s burden and how it was time that we relieved him. And fittingly, after Tendulkar’s departure, it has been you who has carried the Indian team forward.
Now, let us move to Tendulkar’s final ODI, in the 2012 Asia Cup against Pakistan. You joined the master at 0/1, and the two of you stitched together a magnificent 133-run partnership. Tendulkar departed for 52, but you stayed till the end, scored a breathtaking 183, and took the team home.
It was in the year 2013, when you scored that 52-ball hundred against Australia, that people started talking about you being the next Tendulkar. At first, I dismissed it as a joke. How could anyone come close to Sachin? Who can even get near his numbers? Was it even humanly possible to come close to his 49 hundreds and 18,000-plus runs?
But then, with every passing year, you grew in stature. You scored a whopping 1054 runs in the year 2014, including 4 hundreds, and then in the 2015 World Cup, you became the first Indian batsman to score a century against Pakistan in World Cup cricket.
You also went past Sourav Ganguly’s tally of hundreds that year, and occupied second place in the list of most ODI hundreds by an Indian. This was the time I started fearing that some of Tendulkar’s ODI records might be in grave danger.
In 2017, you just pulverized every bowling attack you faced, scoring 6 hundreds and 1460 runs. I thought to myself: “Will Tendulkar be relegated from the peak someday by Kohli?”
In 2018 again, you were at your swashbuckling best .You broke Tendulkar’s record by becoming the fastest to 10,000 runs in ODI cricket, and scored 6 hundreds last year at an average of 133.56.
Your tally of hundreds stands at 39 as of today. This is just 10 shy of Tendulkar's tally in ODI cricket. I have now started to dread that moment - of you crossing Tendulkar. I never thought there would come a day, and that too so soon, when someone would challenge Tendulkar’s numbers.
But then, such is the nature of sport; nothing lasts forever.
You see Virat, many a time I have tried to trick my mind into believing that you are indeed the next Tendulkar. But then, the mind just does not accept it. My mind asks me: does Kohli give you the same joy that Tendulkar did? And I answer: no.
Can Kohli’s straight drive captivate you in the same way the straight drive from Sachin did? Again I answer: no.
I am sorry Virat, but I have not been able to enjoy your exploits on the field. But then again, that is through no fault of your own.
An ardent Sachin fan