It was not so long ago when a young guy from Delhi led India to its Under-19 World Cup trophy in ODIs. My interest in cricket has been since my childhood and there have been tremendous stories to savour of heroics about our cricket players. But this was the time that I felt India had found someone with unique batting ability and leadership called Virat Kohli. His meteoric rise has made him the talk of world media following cricket. With tremendous potential, do we have another player who will shine for a while before fading away or is he a genius in the making?
Success and applause has come at a rapid pace for this 23-year-old who did not have a great start after his international debut in 2008. And as is so often the case, it becomes tough to handle too much of success at such a young age which turned out to be the case with Kohli for a brief tenure. It’s difficult to put ourselves in that age and understand that when success at such a tender age chases one, one starts feeling that there is nothing beyond oneself. But Kohli has come out of this period filled with arrogance and talks of a young, spoilt brat with resounding performances. This has been some comeback with the young lad maturing at every point of time.
Batsmen in today’s world are turning out to be big powerful hitters with technique losing its significance with the T-20 format coming into play. Ask anyone about today’s batsmen and hitters like Pollard, Pietersen, Sehwag, Dhoni and Taylor are bound to emerge. Gone are the days when people would watch live cricket to see the silken touches in drives, the response to tall fast bowlers and the ability to time the bowls to boundaries. This generation has now come to know of people hitting sixes, much at their will, making the biggest grounds look small. This is when a player like Kohli emerges out of the mix, mixing aggression with exquisite touch and technique, making batting look a lot easier. Like a player of the 60s and 80s, he plays the game of cricket in an assured and mature manner but incorporates every bit of modern touch to it.
Besides being the fastest Indian to score 1000 runs in ODIs, he has 4 centuries in the last 5 ODIs, scoring more than 50 in each one of them and swelling his average to more than 50 after 86 matches. Virat is going through a deep purple patch as of now, which batsmen would just dream of. There are times when every batsman would have such a period but making the most use of it is not that everyone can achieve. Talk about the latest numbers and Virat Kohli is perhaps the only other batsman besides Hashim Amla to score in huge volumes in all 3 forms of the game. To add more credibility to these achievements, the runs have been scored against top scoring nations in their home grounds. In Sri Lanka, for instant where the Lions are feared for their exceptional record, the bowling attack led by Malinga was taken to the cleaners by Kohli.
Indian cricketers have always been considered soft on the field. The times have changed ever since Sourav Ganguly took on the reins and from then on there has been no looking back for the Indian team. Filled with aggression, the players take the opposition eye to eye playing fearless cricket. This is when the players led by Virat Kohli have come to represent the Indian Youth ready to take the world by storm.
Since the entry of India into world cricket, we have been considered poor chasers but things have changed drastically now. The recent team has achieved under Dhoni’s leadership the world record of 18 successful consecutive ODI chases and a lot of credit has to go to young players like Virat Kohli. They say the true ability of a player is judged when put under tremendous pressure. And this is when Kohli has risen to the occasion. Scenario of Commonwealth Bank Series 2012 proved that yet again. With a do-or-die match, India could not have asked for a poorer performance from the bowlers with Sri Lanka setting a target of 321 to be achieved in 40 overs for having any chances of qualification. A bad start to it brought Kohli to the crease and what followed was an innings filled with class and deft touches with a resounding strike rate of around 155. As if to show the world that this was no fluke, there was another Kohli special in the waiting, this time in the Asia Cup 2012. With a must win game, Pakistan racked up 329 and had a great bowling attack led by Umar Gul. But then India had Kohli, who was in his elements using his bat like a sword and scoring his highest score of 183. The ability to perform and thrive under pressure goes on speaks volumes about Kohli at such a young age.
Cricket is a funny sport in India, where it takes just one performance to make a hero or a villain. The comparisons are thus bound to happen for a player like Kohli with the master blaster Sachin, a name that has become synonymous with Indian cricket and continues to remain so currently. But one has to give it a thought taking into account the more than 2 decades served by the Master Blaster. Talent is always compared to the others in the same generation. It is here that Kohli emerges out as exceptional having proven better than the bests of his times. At the current pace, there seem too many more hundreds ahead of him painting a very rosy picture now and this is where he has to guard against complacency. Having created the record for the fastest 13 centuries in just 86 innings with AB De Villiers a distant second having achieved it in 121 innings shows that Kohli has in it to be the best.
The potential is now there for everyone to see with most of these hundreds coming in chases speaking about the calmness and maturity possessed by Kohli. This is where Kohli has ensured that the talent gets converted into something substantial and has risen above players like Rohit Sharma, who despite having several chances have failed to convert their immense talent into potential. Furthermore, the advent of IPL has brought out the best of Kohli. With players seeing money like never before, here is Kohli who has excelled in this tournament letting his bat do the talking. The focus has been on performance rather than the other incentives on offer. His association with Royal Challengers Bangalore has truly shown that the very fact that success has followed him every time is because he has not let his aggressive personality affect his batting. The leadership and potential shown has led the RCB owner Vijay Mallya to call him the future Indian captain and also hand reigns of the team in the absence of Daniel Vettori. It is only fair to say that he has proved himself in several adverse situations and continues to do so.
To add to all his genius in batting, he is a wonderful fielder and has formed a part of one of the best Indian fielding unit boasting of Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and Manoj Tewari as well. His part-time bowling has often prompted Dhoni to call him for breakthroughs and putting the brakes on the scoring. On most of these occasions, Kohli has performed beyond expectations and proven to be a worthy all-rounder.
Here is now someone who India can fondly call their ‘crisis man’. Is it all because of the purple patch and exceptional form that Kohli is in? The achievements so far do show that this is someone who is truly special, but then with such a short career of around 90 ODIs and 10-odd test matches, the judgement cannot be made on the longevity of Kohli as a player. The achievements have come under new regulations like power-plays, free-hits and much shorter grounds but all these can be argued to be the same for everyone. This is when the performances need to be monitored over 4-5 years to confirm the class of a player.
Ever since the one year after his debut, spent in ignorance, this Indian cricketer has never looked back. With calmness, composure and maturity shown at every instance, the poster boy of Indian cricket has made a place for himself in all the 3 forms of cricket. What remains to be seen is whether this talent is the one that would be a the next BIG thing to happen to world cricket.Published 15 Sep 2012, 12:20 IST