What makes Virat Kohli a genius in 50 over cricket?
In India's recently concluded ODI series vs West Indies, Virat Kohli became the first Indian batsman to score three consecutive centuries in one-day international cricket. This achievement came only a few days after he reached the mark of 10000 runs in the format.
Only 13 players in the history of the game have scored more than 10000 runs in the format. However, Kohli is a special member of the elite list. The Indian captain is the fastest to reach the mark, having done so in 204 innings. He broke Sachin Tendulkar's record by a mind-blowing 54 innings.
Kohli is someone who has conquered each format of the game. Be it Tests, ODIs or T20Is, one struggles to name a better player in either format at the moment. However, if there is one format that Kohli stands out in, it is One-Day International cricket. This was the format where Kohli made his international debut, it is where he has made his mark in and now this is the format he is arguably the greatest ever in.
The biggest mark of Kohli's greatness is visible in his batting average. In ODI cricket, Kohli averages 59.84 as things stand. The score is the highest for any player who has featured in more than 50 One Day International games. The second on the list is Micheal Bevan with an average of 53.58. The only other Indian to have an average of over 50 is Mahendra Singh Dhoni with 50.11.
In matches India has won, Kohli's average shoots up to 78.16. No player in history to have played more than 50 innings has a higher average in winning causes. While he continues to accumulate runs, he is also world cricket's biggest match-winner.
The most astonishing thing about Kohli is his centuries count. The Royal Challenger Banglore captain has scored 38 centuries in 50 over cricket which makes him the second highest on the list.
Kohli is only 11 centuries behind Sachin Tendulkar despite playing almost 250 games less. His regularity in reaching the landmark is almost unparalleled in the game. Nobody in the history of cricket has done it as often as he does it. His consistency in scoring centuries reminds one of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's feats in football.
More than just numbers
A look at the numbers shows Kohli is above anyone and everyone in the format. Neither in the current generation or in yesteryears, has anyone come close to heights that Kohli has hit in the formats. However, very often, numbers can be misleading and not show the full picture. That is anything but the case in Kohli's case. His statistical superiority reflects his dominance in the format.
Kohli has an incredible number of runs to show, but more importantly, he has scored them everywhere. Less than half of his one-day international runs have come at home. Out of his 10232 runs, 5949 have come outside India at a remarkable average of 58.32.
Apart from 45.46 in the West Indies and 47.31 in Sri Lanka, Kohli's average touches 50 in every country. He has at least one ODI century to show for against each Test playing nation (except Ireland and Afghanistan) away from home and in every country, he has played in.
On home soil, Kohli is almost in a league of his own. The Indian captain is less than 200 runs away from becoming the second highest run scorer ever. With 4440 ODI runs to his name in 84 ODIs, he is on track to break Sachin Tendulkar's record of 6976 runs in India. Of players who have played more than 50 innings in India, only Rohit Sharma's average of 64.37 is higher than Kohli 62.07.
While his status as the greatest batsman of all time in the format is debatable. One thing that few can object is his claim as the greatest chaser ever. Batting in the second innings, Kohli is already the second highest run scorer ever with 6172 runs. Only Sachin Tendulkar has more runs than him.
Kohli's average of 69.34 while chasing is comfortably the highest of any player to have played more than 50 innings. AB De Villiers is the second on the list with a second innings average of 56.81.
Virat already has more centuries than anyone in a chase. More often not, Kohli guides his team home while batting second. His average in winning run-chases is a massive 98.93. Only Mahendra Singh Dhoni's average of 97.81 comes close in the cause.
His greatest quality is batting for long. Once he gets a start, Kohli usually makes the most of it. His 50 to 100 conversation rate in the shortest format is a staggering 44.19. Only 3 players in history with more than 2000 ODI runs have a higher conversation rate in ODI cricket. None of the players above him either have half the runs or half the centuries. This is a quality of his that transcends to Test cricket with an astonishing conversation rate of 55.81. Quite clearly, he is someone who doesn't waste to the opportunity to score big runs and someone the team can rely on to guide the team to high scores.
What sets him apart?
While statistics exhibit his greatness, the question one is bound to ask is what makes him the special he is. His glorious range of stroke play is a visual treat for most cricket fans. However, his greatest quality is something the highlights package will not show.
Even when he is not striking the bowlers for boundaries, he continues to pick up singles and doubles. There is rarely a moment with Kohli on the crease when the team's scoring rate hits a dry patch. Even if he is not smashing fours and sixes, he still continues to pile up the runs at a quick rate. If there is one quality that separates him from the rest, it his ability to rotate the strike better than anyone else.
While chasing a score, his reading of situations is almost perfect every time. If a young player wishes to learn how to build an innings in limited overs cricket, there is no better case study than Virat Kohli. While a few players may have a better technique than him, nobody knows how to make runs better than Kohli at least in the 50 over format. While he has the ability, its the brains behind his batting that makes the difference.
In the current generation, Kohli is ahead of everyone possible metric possible by a distance. The Indian captain has surpassed most former greats at a much quicker rate. He is on course to have most possible records in the format to his name. Such is his level of consistency that many players with exceptional records look ordinary when compared to him. He is head and shoulders above anyone and everyone in the 50 over format. He has set new standards for everyone to follow in the game.
What is left to achieve
With only 11 centuries between him and Sachin Tendulkar, the question arises is there anything left for him to achieve in the format? There is no doubting that he has already done enough to be remembered as one of the greatest ever. However, there does remain one peak for him to climb.
Despite having a winner's medal, he is yet to perform at his best during a World Cup. In the two World Cups he has featured in, the Delhite has only scored 587 runs in 17 matches.
His record in knockout games is even worse with only 72 runs in 5 matches with a paltry average of 14.40. Having said that, it will be wrong to say Kohli has not played an important knock in a knockout game. His knock of 35 was extremely important to put India back on track in the 2011 World Cup Final.
If there is one tournament where a player is given a stamp of greatness, it is the World Cup. The kind of character Kohli is, he will surely be eager to set his record straight in the competition. Like in the Test series in England earlier this year, do not be surprised if Kohli removes any doubts about him with ease in the 2019 World Cup.