Sydney 2012 to Sydney 2015: Virat Kohli's career has come a full circle
When Virat Kohli burst onto the scene in international cricket, he gave the impression of being an angry young kid on the block. Whenever he achieved something significant on the field, his celebrations were marked by a mouthful of the choicest expletives.
If any member of the opposing camp dared cross his way, he would dish out the same kind of treatment to him. Moreover, owing to his bold and outspoken nature, he often used to get dragged into unnecessary controversies.
This is exactly what happened in the 2012 Sydney Test. While fielding in the deep, he got provoked by some obscene langauge used by a certain section of the crowd and flashed his middle finger in retaliation. Subsequently, he was fined 50% of his match fees and drew flak from all quarters.
Australia: The Tour that mattered
When India embarked on the tour of Australia in 2011, Virat Kohli was Team India’s rising superstar in the 50-over format. The Delhi dasher’s Test record though, was not much to write home about. However, given his showing in ODIs, lots was expected from him.
In the first couple of tests at Melbourne and Sydney, his inexperience as a Test batsman got the better of him as he aggregated just 43 runs at an average of 10.75. Moreover, the pressure from the media and fans was taking a toll on his usually fluent game. Adding to that, the controversy in the Sydney Test also raised a big question on his behavior on the field.
Keeping all these factors in mind, there were many who called for Virat’s head for the next test at Perth. However, Dhoni being the persistent captain that he is, gave the 26-year old another chance in the Perth test.
Kohli grabbed the chance with both hands as he ended up as the top scorer for India in both the innings. Though India lost the game, the Delhi batsman won a lot of praise for the application and determination he showed in testing conditions on the world’s fastest pitch.
In the 4th test at Adelaide, he vindicated the faith that Dhoni had placed in him yet again by scoring a fighting hundred when all other Indian batsmen around him perished cheaply.
In the ODI tri series that followed, Virat shone with the bat once again as he ended up as the top scorer for the Indian team with an aggregate of 373 runs at an average of 53.28. His innings of 133* off just 86 balls in the last league game versus Sri Lanka was an absolute masterpiece.
Though India were drubbed 4-0 in the Test series and could not make it to the finals of the tri series, Kohli was the most improved player from the Indian contingent . It was as if a new, maturer Virat Kohli had been born on the tour.
His mindset had been hardened by the battles Down Under and it seemed as if he was gunning to take on any challenge that was thrown at him.
Evolution as a Test batsman
Prior to the tour of Australia, Virat’s record as a Test batsman did not make very good reading. In 4 tests, he had scored 191 runs at a pretty mediocre average of 27.28. It was not that he became an overnight superstar after the Australian tour, but rather that he matured into a very good Test batsman over a period of time.
In Tests played in 2012 thereafter, he scored 400 runs at a very good average of 50. He continued his good form in 2013 too as he scored 616 runs at an average of 56. This included two very good innings of 119 and 96 in South Africa, another country where batting is never easy.
His start to the year 2014 was pretty good as he scored 214 runs at an average of 71.33 in the Test series vs New Zealand. However, a few shortcomings in his technique against the moving ball were brutally exposed in the Test series in England.
Kohli endured a terrifying time in the 5-match test series as he managed a mere 134 runs at a paltry average of 13.40. It looked as if the English bowlers had finally worked out something to bring Virat’s extended purple patch to an end. Given the fighter that he is, India’s newly crowned Test skipper worked hard in the nets and ironed out whatever flaws were there in his technique.
The results are there for everyone to see as Virat has aggregated a whopping 499 runs in the first 3 games of the current series vs Australia at an excellent average of 83.16. His twin centuries in the first game at Adelaide almost took the Indian team home.
He also happens to be the highest run scorer for the Indian team in the current series.The way he has countered the Australian bowlers so far has really raised his standing as a Test batsman.
Improvement as an ODI batsman
Virat had already become the next big thing in ODI’s before the Australian tour. After the Australian tour, however, he took his ODI batting to a whole new level. Prior to the Australia tour, Kohli had scored close to 3000 runs in 74 one days at an impressive average of 46.88. He also had 8 centuries to his name with a top score of 118.
And this is the most striking statistic. Even after 8 hundreds, his highest score was 118. Not that he didn’t value his wicket. However, very often, he showed the tendency to get out before he had taken his team over the line.
In ODI’s thereafter, he put his gleanings from the Australia tour to good effect as he played a blazing knock of 183 vs Pakistan just a month after the ODI series Down Under.
Time and again after that, Virat has played several crucial knocks in ODI’s and has helped the Indian team win matches from nearly impossible situations. The most improved aspect of his ODI batting is his willingness to stay till the very end and see his team home.
Already considered one of the best batsmen in the format, his current ODI record reads 6208 runs at an excellent average of 52.61. Also with a tally of 21 hundreds, he stands fifth on the list of most ODI centuries.
Emergence as The Captain
Ever since the 26-year old made his way into the Indian team, he was tipped to be the next captain owing to his exploits during his U-19 days. Moreover, his steady rise as a consistent batsman added a lot of credibility to his captaincy credentials.
However, the Indian team had a steady captain in MS Dhoni and therefore his opportunities to lead the Men in Blue were few and far between, restricted to outings when Dhoni was unavailable. What is really commendable, however, is that he scored a century and led his team from the front in just his second game as the Indian captain.
In ODI’s, Kohli’s record as a captain is excellent as he has led the Indian team to 14 wins in 17 games. In these games, his record as a batsman is excellent – he has scored 850 runs at an excellent average of 70.83 including 4 centuries.
These numbers amply indicate that he relishes the additional responsibility of leading the team. His first opportunity to lead the Indian team in a Test came on the current Australian tour when MS Dhoni was not able to play the first game at Adelaide owing to a thumb injury.
India’s performance in the Adelaide test was impressive as they went down fighting on the final day of the Test. Virat, the stand-in skipper led from the front as he slammed twin centuries in the game and almost single handedly took the Indian team to a famous victory.
Though India lost the game, the Delhi batsman received a lot of praise for the way he led his team by example in his very first Test as the captain.
Sydney 2015: A new beginning
Now that India’s long time test captain, MS Dhoni has retired, Virat has been appointed the full time captain of the Indian team in Tests.
In a way, it can be said that it is poetic justice that the 26-year old’s first test as the full-time captain of the Indian team will come at the S.C.G, the very venue where he received a lot of flak for his actions on the field 3 years ago.
It can be said that Kohli’s career has come a full circle in these 3 years. In this period, he has achieved a lot for himself and the Indian team. Going by his record as the captain in whatever limited opportunities he has got so far, Indian cricket fans can be hopeful that the future looks good for Indian cricket.