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Fuelled by unimaginable self-belief, Virat Kohli motoring towards Mt. Sachin

Hemang Badani
EXPERT COLUMNIST
Feature
1.98K   //    19 Feb 2018, 22:30 IST

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To see the resplendent sun, one does not need light!

Banal as it sounds, one needs to scratch the surface to illumine oneself. Tweak that a bit and viewed from an Indian cricket fan's perspective, one may well infer that shining and burning like the sun with its pristine purity is Virat Kohli. One need not look further to see that the Indian Cricket team is bright as can be under Virat's coruscating glow.

The effects are there for all to see and admire.

The remarkable self-belief displayed by Team India to cope and bury the loss of the Test match series loss, swamping the South Africans in the white-ball series must have pleased the discerning and the commoner no end gave that they pounded the hosts at their own backyard to a never before achieved scoreline of 5-1.

Although, I must hasten to admit that the manner of the burial handed to the Proteas, barring the fourth tie plagued by rain, surprised me pleasantly and shocked me a bit. That they the SA side are on the mend is understandable but to capitulate and to not even last their full quota on more than one occasion was a trifle disappointing, to say the least.

That the Indians recovered from the tests debacle in this manner revealed both resilience and character albeit an 'armchair skeptic' may well reckon it as results achieved on good slow batting surfaces that aided turn a bit and against a relatively depleted host unit, which missed its star players like Du Plessis (after his ton in the first game), AB De Villiers and Quinton de Kock to an extent.

It is after all not India's problem as Virat so succinctly summarised at the presser at Johannesburg, where ironically, ghosts of the twin Test match turmoil of Cape Town and Centurion, were laid to rest in a remarkable fightback, and that the seeds of this stunning showing in the ODIs were sowed.

India's turnaround on a diabolical surface in the Third test at Johannesburg suggested of the immediate good times to come and with the wisdom of hindsight, should the Indians have visited these very shores a fortnight earlier, who knows even the Test series win could well have been fashioned, and thus an opportunity lost! Alas!

In all my years of watching and playing this game and, without jumping to judgments too easily, one almost without a notion of doubt reckons that Virat Kohli in the present punishing mood and in scintillating sublime form must rank as the greatest ODI bat ever!

35 ODI tons in this double quick time at the crease is a case in point and his aggregate of 558 runs in this series takes some doing, particularly after the stress and strains of captaincy and his Goldfish-like status, with almost zero privacy. Indian skippers are usually scrutinized to the bare bones and Virat with his larger than life status and his glowing individual persona is no exception to the microscopic examination and the resultant spotlight.

Yet, to conjure up these numbers is a result of his blinkered laser-like focus coupled with his almost dizzying ability to hunt down opponents totals with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker, is both astounding and astonishing! 

It is these hot and tricky pursuits, that tests the best batsmen to the bones. Superfluous to add lesser mortals turn their tails, freeze, tremble, and stumble, and that to me is the cutting edge clincher as an unparalleled attribute. Usually, when the heat is on in a run chase, scoreboard pressure mounts and sangfroid is lost even as over analysis causes paralysis.

That Virat rarely succumbs to such tremors is a reflection of the bewildering paradox that he is. Very rarely have batting maestro's combined 'ice in the vein' approach and a combustible fire like persona at the crease, much like a regal IVA Richards!

Batting is reckoned by pundits as slow death and one of torment but such seemingly innate definitions are reserved for less endowed gents barring the above-rarefied duo! The fact remains that Virat has learned to bat before bashing the bowlers. Orthodox at the crease to a fault, Virat's powers of concentration is monkish. Possessed with Euclid-like geometrical precision to find the gaps at will and with his almost maniacal fitness standards, Virat has had a telling effect on this Indian side both as a captain with a consistent and ever improving record and more particularly as a leader of men with his unmistakable on-field success story as a modern-day batting great.

The Kohli factor aside, the web of deceit spun by the young mercurial rubber wristed duo of Chahal and Yadav with a sum total of 33 wickets was phenomenal, to say the least not to mention the miserly returns they mustered, barring the lash at Wanderers in the truncated match which the Indians lost. That both these spinners with their array of variety re-paid their skippers faith was brilliant to witness for such is the rare art of wrist spin that it calls for an understanding captain who trusts their trade and skill.

That both the tweakers with very little exposure abroad showed a big heart for a fight with an intrepid attitude, made up for a wonderful partnership. It is this attribute of scalping wickets reeking of sleight and wit, in the middle overs, predictable and on autopilot in most situations, that captured the imagination of one and all. Such wicket-taking bursts from either of the ends arrested the pattern and fast-tracked the slide of Proteas, many of whom were guilty of the calamitous cocktail for disaster. Cobwebbed minds, feet of clay and to pick the 'well-spun orb' late and fatally off the pitch is a sure shot signal to embrace the slippery slope, which the Proteas duly did!

With the focus shifting to T20s in the prevailing season of 2017-18, and with India slated to play at least 30 one-dayers in the coming season of 2018-19 after IPL 11 and before the World Cup 2019, in England, one swoons at the very thought and mention of the stratospheric proportions Virat Kohli may well scale as a batsman in the meantime, filling his boots.

Batsmen, it is said, turn a corner and better their best at around ages 30-31 when they know their own game and understand the art and science of batsmanship. Virat will be all of 30 in early November 2018! To think that he can further grow as a batsman beggars belief, but with his insatiable gluttony at the crease, a 'fiftieth ODI ton' to usurp the peerless SRT@49, is more a 'case of when and not if'.

Indians with their reverential allure to numbers, over ages, will certainly watch Virat's progress closely on this front.

Such has been Virat's domineering domination. An avid Indian fan would dearly love to have the perfect icing on the cake with Virat penciling it in a winning cause in a big stage like the WC final at England in mid-July 2019, whence pitches are generally at their best. Sounds demented akin to tilting at windmills? But wait a second, facts are stranger than fiction as evidenced by his Bradmaneaque appetite lately, that a die-hard Virat Kohli fan won't die wondering what to wager a bet on!

This terrifyingly terrific prospect and, it may well sound as highly improbable to millions but dare I say, is not beyond the realms of possibility of this remorseless and merciless run machine, fuelled by an unimaginable self-belief, that Virat Kohli most certainly has in bucketfuls that he can walk even on water!

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Hemang Badani
EXPERT COLUMNIST
Hemang Badani is a former Indian cricketer who played 40 ODIs and four Tests for the national side during the early 2000s.
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