April 2, 2011, 7 PM
The Sri Lankans opting to bat at the Wankhede Stadium scored an imposing 274 riding on the back of another big-match performance by the effervescent Mahela Jayawardene. A billion people had their heart in their mouth for never before had a total of such colossal proportions been successfully chased in a World Cup final.
India had the worst start possible with the dangerous Virender Sehwag LBW off Lasith Malinga on the second ball of the innings. To make matters worse, after striking a couple of exquisite boundaries, the toast of the nation, the God of Cricket was caught behind off the same bowler. The nation looked stunned and scared as the scorecard read 31-2 with both openers back in the hut.
The glare of hope was reduced to a flicker. It is said that in times of grave adversity, a new hero is born. At times like these, little boys leave their childhood and innocence in the realm of the forgotten and become men. And what better a time to step up than at the grandest stage of them all, seconds after the biggest super-hero of the nation had a lost look on his face, well aware that was as far as he could take them.
While the whole nation ooh-ed and aaah-ed watching the Master Blaster take the slow walk back to the pavilion, the steely eyes, unyielding focus and determination to succeed of a young 22-year old lad who crossed Sachin Tendulkar on his way out went fairly unnoticed.
So did his innings. No one talks about how Virat Kohli stitched an all important 83-run partnership with Gautam Gambhir to take India from the deep, stormy waters to the shores of safety. It really would be prudent to wonder, what if Kohli had been dismissed cheaply? Would Dhoni still have come at number 5 had Virat not scored those crucial 35 runs? Would he still have played that match-winning knock? Would Gambhir have absorbed or cracked under pressure?
Can one know these answers for sure? Obviously not, but they are certainly worth giving a deep insight. Perhaps, the one and only person who took proper notice of the importance of that knock was Virat Kohli himself. The confidence of being a world beater was instilled and hard wired inside his brain and the way he has racked up runs and records since then leaves us awestruck and dumbfounded.
The strange ways of Indian Cricket
It is indeed strange the way criticism works in India, especially by the ‘fans’. In fact, not to put it so gently, it is awful and shameful. Barely three months ago, Virat was the apple of everyone’s eye, the messiah who would bring the country glory in the 2015 World Cup. The media could not stop gushing about him, the fans could not get enough of him and the girls could not stop talking about how dashing he was.
Today, the girls still find him dashing (way to go, girls!), the media criticized him only as much as deserves, and the pundits are certain he would make an even more remarkable comeback. What is saddening is the attitude of the ‘fans’ that has changed faster than the speed of light. The personal digs and pot shots that are taken especially related to someone else in his life are not only unwarranted but downright ridiculous.
What would one do if a person is scolded at work by his boss for not doing his job prudently? Blame it on his wife. What would one do if the performance targets of an employee are not fulfilled? Blame it on his wife. What would one do if aliens attack our planet because some guy opened a secret portal 4000 feet below the earth? Well, you get the point.
However, matters have now come to a head. It is not funny anymore, not even satirically. If anyone, anyone in the world deserves a great life, it’s not me, not you, it’s him. Few people have played a better counter attacking knock against problems and hardships than this flamboyant batsman. It is hence sad that people make fun of the fact that he hurls the choicest of abuses after making a hundred or holding on to an important catch.
When most children were happily receiving expensive and valuable gifts from their fathers on their 18th birthday, Virat was busy catering to his extremely ill father who was bedridden with a brain-stroke. Sadly, Prem Kohli lost the battle a month later in December 2006, but in the process, groomed a prince who would go on to rule the roost.
Did Virat Kohli lose his direction after his father’s death? Did he get into bad habits and bad company? Smoking, drinking, drugs? No, when his father died in his sleep at 2 am in the morning, he did the unthinkable – he went to play against Karnataka in the ongoing Ranji Trophy match and scored 90 crucial runs.
“Virat went ahead and played the match. He had to and scored a brave 90. My husband passed away in his sleep at around 2 in the morning. Virat was in two minds about whether to play or not. Rajkumar Sharma (Virat's coach since his childhood) who was in Australia then advised him not to let go off a chance since it is so difficult to make it to the team.
“It was difficult for Virat. He came directly to the funeral after his knock of 90. He was wrongly given out. I remember that too. Virat changed a bit after that day. Overnight he became a much more matured person. He took every match seriously," said his mother Saroj Kohli to the Times of India.
Unfortunate though it is, the fact remains that an untimely death gave direction to Virat’s career. The quite unbearable pain and frustration was channelled as a positive energy by Virat leading to voracious roars of accomplishment and satisfaction. And what do we do? We laugh it off like complete fools.
Coming to the disastrous tour of England for Kohli, the last match of the tour spoke volumes about Kohli’s character. After completing his half century, let alone the customary wild celebrations, there were none at all – only the applauding crowd was acknowledged by raising his bat. The fact remains, whether one accepts it or not, Kohli was more disappointed with himself than the media or the fans. In all likelihood, he would have not have celebrated even if he reached his 100 for he considers himself too good a player to score in just a solitary match on tour.
Why should one not write Kohli off?
Counter this question with, “Why should one write him off?”
In all, he has had one bad series. Uno. Solitary. Single. Sole. One should bear in mind that just because Tendulkar bore the weight of a nation on his shoulders for two long decades doesn’t mean Virat will be able to do so with the same ease. It is time to support the young master, not write him off.
Whatever the reason of his failure might be, the off stump uncertainty, closing the face of the bat too early or simply a bad patch, the good news is it was diagnosed 5 months before the World Cup. There is more than enough time for Kohli to iron out his armour by the time the plane leaves for Australia.
It seems rather pertinent that a gentle reminder should be issued about Kohli in the past 3 years or so. Before the series against England, he was nothing short of phenomenal in all three formats of the game
Virat Kohli since the World Cup
Virat Kohli has such an astonishing and unbelievable record in ODIs that one simply does not know where to begin.
Before the World Cup 2011 began, Virat had a fairly decent record averaging 46.44 and striking them at 82.12 with 4 hundreds after 44 matches. But after the World Cup finals innings mentioned above, his record is akin to that of a superhuman. Let us have a statistical look at his performances.
Virat Kohli in ODIs since 3rd April, 2011 upto date:
|Situation||Matches||Innings||Not Out||Runs||Highest Score||Average||Balls Faced||Strike Rate||100||50|
|v New Zealand||5||5||0||291||123||58.20||284||102.46||1||2|
|v South Africa||4||3||0||62||31||20.86||81||76.54||0||0|
|v Sri Lanka||15||15||3||836||133*||69.66||922||90.67||4||3|
|v West Indies||16||16||1||781||117||52.06||828||94.32||2||5|
The analysis of these stats reveal facts quite phenomenal. Barring South Africa, against whom he has batted in merely 3 innings, Virat Kohli averages at least 44 against every nation he has played. To put things into perspective, Tendulkar, the greatest Indian player ever to grace the game has an overall average of 44.83 and Ricky Ponting has an average of 42.03. It is nothing short of astounding that, apart from one country, the worst he has played against another is the same as Tendulkar’s career average and more than that of Punter.
Another area of interest is the nerve wrecking speed at which he has scored so many runs so consistently. Barring South Africa as usual, the slowest he’s played against is England striking them at 86.89 runs per 100 balls (stats include the horrible series he just had). Against everyone else, he strikes them at over 90 runs per 100 balls. To understand how phenomenal this is, Sachin Tendulkar, no short of a dasher himself for most of his career has a strike of 86.23 overall, and India’s captain, MS Dhoni has that of 89.21.
The very fact that he still averages 44.75 against England after this forgettable tour is a testament to the fact that he was neither struggling against them overall nor in their own backyard. Before the current series, Virat averaged 50.92 against England and 46.25 in England. He also struck them at 88.62 and 89.58 respectively.
Not only does Virat score runs against every team he plays against, he also does so far, far away from the comforts of home. If one has a doubt on the lines of him being a player who scores runs only at home, the following table will exorcise the ghosts of any such baseless feelings.
Virat Kohli in neutral and away conditions upto date:
|Situation||Matches||Innings||Not Out||Runs||Highest Score||Average||Balls Faced||Strike Rate||100||50|
|in New Zealand||5||5||0||291||123||58.20||284||102.46||1||2|
|in South Africa||3||2||0||31||31||15.50||40||77.50||0||0|
|in Sri Lanka||5||5||1||296||128*|| |
|in West Indies||10||10||0||347||102||34.70||415||83.61||1||2|
A quite mind numbing fact is that Virat has scored a century in all countries he’s played a match in barring South Africa. Such consistency is quite unparalleled and also a testament of the fact that Virat has mastered the art of batting and battling in overseas conditions.
Apart from this, Kohli is the fastest to reach 15 centuries, joint fastest to 5000 runs, and has the second highest number of centuries, two behind Sachin Tendulkar’s 14, having played less than one-third of the matches played by the Master Blaster.
Since the 2011 World Cup, Virat has scored more runs and more centuries than any other player in the world, and his average is lesser than only AB de Villiers and MS Dhoni.
In Test matches, his record may not be that flamboyant, but given time, it will come good. He is too good a player not to succeed in the longest format of the game. As dug up by noted cricket writer Abhishek Mukherjee, despite him failing in England, Kohli has 1,855 runs at 39.46 in 29 Tests. Prior to the England series, his career tally read 1,721 at 46.51, which are respectable by any standards for a batsman who is still a work-in-progress. Also, before the series his overseas numbers read 862 runs at 43.10,which were the second-best by an Indian with 500 runs since Kohli’s Test debut (Rahul Dravid leads with 942 at 44.85).
Finally, he returns to his best in the T20 format. Apart from being the top ranked batsman in the world according to the T20 rankings, he is also the 4th highest scorer in this period, having played at least 5 fewer internationals than those above him.
It is beyond any sense and logic to dig deep into Virat’s failures. To be honest, it simply had to happen someday – and it proved Kohli is human like the rest of us. The creator of the law of averages will be breathing a sigh of relief, for Virat came perilously close to making a mockery of it. The purple patch, which was more like the purple blanket had to run out of thread some day. But knowing him, while we all will be sleeping in the comfort of our beds, in some distant corner, instead of waiting for things to happen Virat Kohli will be busy spinning a ball of cotton yarn day in and day out to make some more thread for his blanket.
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