Why Test cricket owes Virat Kohli
On Thursday morning, Virat Kohli walked out to bat in the midst of a fiery spell from newbie Sam Curran. At 50-2, India found themselves in a tricky position. Soon things got worse as the visitors were reduced to 182-8. All the Indian batsmen had failed, leaving the team in a vulnerable position. Just one man withstood the storm. The captain, Virat Kohli.
Kohli's magic vs England
With wickets falling at the other hand, it was a less than ideal situation for Kohli. Last time around, the Indian captain had a horrible time in England, scoring 134 runs in 10 innings. Since then, Kohli has basically achieved everything there has been to achieve in all formats in every country. However, the ghost of that series remained with him. The world never stopped talking about it. Any time his greatness as a batsman was talked about, the ill-fated tour crept into debates. All the talk before this series centred around his batting.
India fans would have wished for their captain to get an easy start to the series to get the pressure off his shoulders. What he got turned out to be completely different. He walked in with English bowler Sam Curran having his tail up. His old nemesis, James Anderson, who dismissed him four times in 2014, went full throttle at him. The battle between the two was one to savor. The classic bat versus ball clash. Unlike last time, though, Kohli didn't relent.
The Delhi boy withstood some fantastic fast bowling and ended up amassing a gigantic score of 149. In his first knock of the 2018 series, Kohli crossed his 2014 tally. More importantly, it could turn out to be a match and series defining effort. India looked all set to concede a lead of over 100 runs. In the end, England got one of only 13 runs.
Kohli's genius with the bat
It was a knock that made you stand up and applaud, no matter where you were. The knock will go down in the Hall of Fame and be talked about for years. His batting attracted fans to the game. Be it his determination to leave the ball outside off stump, playing with soft hands, or his array of mesmerizing strokes, this was a knock for the ages.
Kohli's love for Test cricket
However, that is just one aspect of why Kohli is so important to Test cricket. The most important thing about him is he cares. India's importance to world cricket is well known. In a time when, all over the world, players are quitting the longer format for the riches of T20 leagues, for India's captain to be so passionate about the 5-day game is a blessing. His desire and motivation to perform in Tests and win big away series can be seen in his words and actions. There is a determination to make India the best side in the world, to erase India's poor record outside Asia and to create history in the white jersey.
One must not forget, prior to the tour of England, Kohli had signed up to play a month of country cricket with Surrey. The aim behind it was simply to get used to the English conditions with the red ball and ensure there was no repeat of 2014. Ultimately, the stint never happened due to an unfortunate neck injury suffered during the Indian Premier League. But the intention spoke volumes.
World cricket's biggest poster boy wanting to go through the grind of first-class cricket in another country in between a jam-packed schedule is as big a boost for red ball cricket as there could be. Despite the glamour associated with T20s, for the world's best batsman to prioritise a Test series in England sets the right example for current players and the upcoming generation.
Virat Kohli - The Captain
Right from his first game as captain in Adelaide, Kohli has only looked to win. The word 'draw' barely exists in his dictionary. After stepping onto the field, his team are expected to play only for the win. Sometimes his moves baffle people. His decisions barely make sense. But he sticks to those bold decisions. He remains a hopeless believer. He makes things happen when no one expects him to. For a format that is accused of being "boring" by some, the attitude of captains like Kohli is the need of the hour.
The Indian captain is known to be an animated character on the field. Hearing him from the stump-mic in South Africa provided entertainment to viewers. The latest incident occurred on Day 1 at Edgbaston as he celebrated after getting the wicket of Joe Root. Not everyone liked it but as long as it is not abusive or personal, what is the harm? It adds life to the encounter. Every sporting encounter needs it and Test cricket needs it more than anything else.
Test cricket's icon
Virat Kohli is not a universal favourite. There are admirers of his batting, but his personality is not easy to take to. Especially if you do not support the team he plays for. However, whether you love him or loathe him, he is someone who cannot be ignored. From his batting and fielding to his captaincy, Kohli makes sure people are glued to the television sets when he is on the field. Virat Kohli might not be the hero Test cricket deserves but he is certainly one it needs at the moment.