16th of November , 2013 will always be remembered in Indian Cricket history. It was on this day that the ‘little master’ bade adieu to international cricket after having played the last test against the West Indies at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Tendulkar’s glittering career of 24 years came to an end. Millions of fans all across the world began to feel that vacuum which would be created now and the batting legend would no more mesmerize fans with his extraordinary talent. More than that , the demi- God’s 21- minute farewell speech left everyone teary eyed, and people all over the world almost choked with emotions. It was a poignant and nostalgic atmosphere not only on the cricket grounds at Mumbai , but all over the country. The big question was- After Tendulkar who? Sure enough. It was very difficult, or rather impossible to stand on Tendulkar’s shoes, and a genius like him is not produced even in a million years. But then, this is the beauty of the soil of this country, whose lap continuously churns out countless gems of different kinds, and the process starts quite before , so that there is a Samudragupta to take the place of the great Chandragupta. A jewel had already arrived in the crown and with each day it shone brighter and brighter, outshining his own achievements and also his contemporaries. Enter Virat Kohli , who is Tendulkar 2.0.
“[Kohli] is the next chosen one. He exudes the intensity of [Dravid], the audacity of [Sehwag], and the extraordinary range of [Tendulkar]. That doesn’t make him better, simply sui generis, his own unique kind.”- Former New Zealand captain, Martin Crowe on Kohli.
If one goes by the exterior – the spiky hair, tattoos, the wager and arrogance of a confident young man, Kohli epitomises 21st century Indian youth. But the way he bats, especially in the first half of each innings, he seems the antithesis of how young cricketers in India like to bat in this day and age of T20 cricket. These days most young men prefer to go after the bowling right from the beginning, and to keep hitting it till they last. It takes your breath away when it comes off, and looks woeful when it doesn’t, but taking a bit of a risk seems to be the new way of living. Kohli is also known for being the man to one of the most beautiful and vivacious actresses of Bollywood today, Anushka Sharma. But critics feel it’s the other way round. In fact , Kohli is just ‘exceptionally beautiful’. He has a ‘beautiful mind’; his technique is ‘beautiful’, his ‘beauty’ lies in the aggression he displays on the field ; and a player and captain for India who has ‘beautiful’ intentions for the future.
This article would be too small a space to size in all the achievements of Kohli, but just to give a glimpse of this player to the readers, a few have been named here. Kohli captained the U-19 team to victory in 2008 which was played in Malaysia. He is the only batsman in the world to average more than 50 in all the formats of the game. The son of a criminal lawyer, Kohli is the fastest batsman to reach 5000 runs in One Day Internationals, and he also is the fastest one to have more centuries than any other player with respect to the total number of One Day Internationals played. Kohli became the ODI vice captain for the country in 2012, and after Dhoni’s retirement he was handed over the baton of Test Captainship in 2014. He holds the record of scoring the fastest century by an Indian player in just 52 balls. One can judge the character of this man when he played his innings against Karnataka, a day after his father’s death in 18th Dec, 2006 and scored 90 for his team. After his innings he went straight to attend the funeral . This speaks volumes about him, his mental strength and his love for the game.
At the conclusion of the tour, the India Under-19 coach Lalchand Rajput was impressed with Kohli and said, “Kohli showed strong technical skills against both pace and spin”.
“The way I approached the game changed that day. I just had one thing in my mind – that I have to play for my country and live that dream for my dad.”- Kohli on his innings against Karnataka.
Kohli is often compared to Tendulkar, due to their similar styles of batting, and sometimes referred to as Tendulkar’s “successor”. Many former cricketers expect Kohli to break Tendulkar’s batting records. Kohli has stated that growing up his idol and role model was Tendulkar and that as a kid he “tried to copy the shots [Tendulkar] played and hit sixes the way he used to hit them.” Former West Indies great Vivian Richards, who is regarded as the most destructive batsman in cricket, stated that Kohli reminds him of himself. In early-2015, Richards said Kohli was “already legendary” in the ODI format while former Australian cricketer Dean Jones called Kohli the “new king of world cricket”.
Kohli is noted for his on-field aggression and was described in the media as “brash” and “arrogant” during his early career. He has got into confrontations with players and umpires on several occasions. While many former cricketers have backed his aggressive attitude, some have criticised it. In 2012, Kohli had stated that he tries to limit his aggressive behaviour but “the build-up and the pressure or the special occasions make it tough to control the aggression.”
“I love watching Virat Kohli bat. He looks to me like an individual of my own heart. I love his aggression, and [he has] serious passion that I used to have. He reminds me of myself.”
– Former West Indies Captain Viv Richards on Kohli
|Source: ESPNcricinfo, 11 December 2016|
Virat Kohli’s unique technique can leave attacks frustrated. He creates extraordinary angles that defeat field placements, with a combination of bat-speed and strong, flexible wrists. Even on sluggish surfaces, he generates enormous power to send the ball racing to the fence or land beyond the ropes. He not just employs his bat-speed and wrists to get under the ball for the lofted hits but revels in the arc between mid-wicket and square-leg and, stunningly, slaps the ball square on the off-side. It’s hard to bowl a line to him because Kohli can whip the bowler from the off-stump. He can also, playing besides the line, slam the same delivery past point. Actually, Kohli’s bat-speed has, on some occasions, undermined him in Test cricket on pitches with seam movement or sharp spin. There are times when he goes too hard at the ball, without getting his front foot fully forward and across. In the shorter formats, his methods have been highly successful. Importantly, he handles two deliveries that bowlers use as weapon exceedingly well. Kohli is not vulnerable to yorkers since he has a short back-lift. And he is very good against the short-pitched ball since he can, after transferring weight on to his back leg, pull with panache. And Kohli, who bats with a still head, is versatile. He can play conventional cricket, score between long-off and long-on with a straight blade before opening out. He is both organised and destructive. Being a bottom-handed batsman, he is stronger on the leg-side. But then, Kohli, with deft footwork, creates room and then brings his wrists into play to crash the ball through covers inside out. He can pick the length early and play the ball late. This, combined with his supple wrists, enables Kohli to find the gaps.
There was a time when India captains were assessed by the number of Tests they managed to avoid defeat. That changed with the arrival of Sourav Ganguly in 2000. And though MS Dhoni, India’s most successful skipper, began his rein with a bang, not losing a game till his 12th Test, Kohli is changing perceptions about the job by shaping the team in his own aggressive image. Of the first 20 Tests Kohli has led, he has won 12, lost two and drawn six. That equals Dhoni’s record in his first 20 Tests as captain and is already better than India captains in the last three decades. Ganguly won 10 of his first 20 Tests as skipper while Rahul Dravid had won six. Their initiation to Test captaincy, however, was more difficult. By the time Ganguly had led India in 20 Tests, he had been to Zimbabwe and South Africa and was in the middle of a Caribbean tour. At the 20-Test mark, Ganguly had won two Tests, lost three and drawn two outside the subcontinent. Dravid was given a tough assignment as he had to lead in Pakistan, West Indies and South Africa early into his stint. His figures for those tours read two wins, five losses and five draws.
- Of the first 20 Tests Kohli has led, he has won 12, lost two and drawn six.
- This equals MS Dhoni’s record in his first 20 Tests as captain.
- Sourav Ganguly won 10 of his first 20 Tests as skipper while Rahul Dravid had won six.
Dhoni had a fairly easy initiation to his captaincy, playing only two Tests outside the subcontinent in his first 20 matches. India won and drew one each in New Zealand in 2009. Kohli’s record, in comparison, is far better. He had lost his first Test as captain in Adelaide before drawing the next in Sydney. On his next full tour outside the subcontinent, in the Caribbean, India won the four-Test series 2-0.
Kohli’s success is due to many factors — his own form, a young and fit team, a skilled reserve bench, R Ashwin’s rise as a dependable all-rounder and a great spinner as coach. But the one crucial factor that has given Kohli the edge as captain is his stress on playing five specialist bowlers, even if it means extra weight on the shoulders of the five batsmen. His debut as captain came on the 2014-15 Australia tour where Kohli was thrust into the job first due to Dhoni’s injury, and then his abrupt retirement. With his next assignment, the one-off Test in Bangladesh, Kohli made it clear the 6+5 combination would be become the standard. Starting with that Fatullah Test, Kohli stuck to the combination in seven out of eight games he has led outside India. In the just concluded Test Series against England, it has been a clean sweep for India , 4-0, and it has proved beyond doubt that Kohli’s formula and combination is unquestionable. In fact, it’s a sweet revenge for Team India if we recall the white wash we suffered at the hands of Cook’s men some three years back , and Kohli was also part of that Indian squad.
The real test of his captaincy though is likely to come in 2018 when India are scheduled to tour South Africa, England and Australia. That should help define Kohli’s captaincy better. But given how thorough he has been with his plans, there is no reason why Kohli can’t break the barriers, especially in South Africa and Australia where India have never won a series, and in England where India were thrashed on the last two tours.
There is also a remorseless ambition to his batting; as with Kevin Pietersen, a brash exterior sometimes obscures an unimpeachable work ethic.
“His work ethic is brilliant, his focus is immense,” says Yuvraj Singh. “Since the time he has joined the Indian team, I saw his work ethic and wished and wondered why I didn’t have that work ethic when I was his age.”
The alliance of that focus and a divine natural talent makes Kohli quite the package. He is definitely the superstar of world cricket today. While modern cricket has a number of young box-office stars, most focus on the shorter form of the game. Kohli, by contrast, still believes in the primacy of Test cricket.
“People asked me which hundred is most special to you and I said the hundred in Adelaide against Australia. I didn’t have that feeling ever in my life, before or after – and I felt it today again,” he said after making his second Test hundred. “I think that is the most satisfying, when you’re being tested and your patience is being tested, your technique is tested and you manage to score a hundred – it always pleases a batsman.”
He is truly a Rock star, and with him we rock and India rocks. Go high, dear Captain. For you sky is the limit.