What makes Virat Kohli the biggest epitome of cricket?
Virat Kohli, has now become the throbbing heart of this longlived sport.
At the age of twenty-nine, he has already made a mark in sporting history and carved his name upon the minds of many cricket fans. His transformation from being a match-winner to contemporary cricket's biggest brand has only begun.
Kohli, the batsman, has made gigantic strides towards seeking immortality. He took over India's captaincy from M.S. Dhoni across formats and in course of time has groomed himself into arguably the best limited overs batsman in the world, and has been the hottest brand in Indian sport by a distance for some time now. Through these years, Kohli in a run chase had been fast becoming a subject of folklore.
Undoubtedly, Virat is one of the best batsmen in world cricket, given the consistency with which he has scored runs in all formats of the game.
In trying to analyse what's extraordinary about Kohli's batsmanship, one is forced to point out his confidence and ability to soak in pressure.
The context, however big, doesn't faze him and he goes about his business in a manner that he has mastered over the years. Knowing well he can accelerate at any time, the asking rate is never a concern with Kohli and the self-awareness allows him that extra bit of cushion to pace his innings.
Importantly, he allows the batsman at the other end to bat freely, and to their liking, they do so without even feeling the pressure.
Considering Kohli's running between the wickets is top-notch, most batsman can revolve around him without having to look at the scoreboard.
If it's a run chase, he just has the uncanny ability to take his game a few notches higher. Pacing innings after innings beautifully and soaking in all the pressure, India's talisman is also India's single biggest match-winner in ODI and T20 cricket.
But Kohli's journey hasn't been easy. Mired with self doubt after multiple failures in Melbourne and Sydney, Kohli had receded into a cocoo,n trying to answer the hardest question for himself- 'Was he good enough to belong at the highest stage of all?' A gritty 75 in the second innings at Perth on a pace-conductive pitch at the WACA restored a measure of his self-confidence but it was the century in Adelaide that left him changed as a cricketer forever.
Virat Kohli knows some grounds like no other else does. He can work out strange angles when batting and place the ball at will. He hunted down the Australian score in Mohali on ODIs with the asking rate touching 13, something that we have very rarely seen in cricket.
The enthusiasm that he brings to the dressing room is infectious. Very few have the ability to stand out in a team game with such self-assurance and conviction as Virat.
The year 2016, however turned out to be a memorable antithesis. Self-doubt and introspection were a thing of the past and by then, he had become the first Indian captain to score four consecutive hundreds against Australia in Australia in 2014-2015. From there on, he never looked back.
The last words on Kohli have clearly not been written. Will he be hailed in five years as India's greatest batsman and captain, or will he go down as an autocrat who treated legends unfairly? Again, will it matter to him how we label him? Does Kohli, the person, really care anymore? For he is at peace with himself, in his gym, at training, in marriage and most importantly on the coveted 22-yards. He is all alone when he bats and when he trains. A passionate robot with single-minded determination. Much like the team he now leads.
He is happy to take responsibility for his failures just as he is keen to enjoy his success. And Indian cricket, so far, has benefited. He will continue to polarize opinion but give us results. And, in sport, it is the winner who takes all. And Kohli, no one can dispute, is a winner.