It was a lousy evening, eight years down the memory lane when a rusty looking bloke led a young team of talented individuals to a U-19 World Cup Triumph in Malaysia. Virat Kohli was the third highest run-scorer in that tournament with one century against his name but what stood out for many, was the certain way he went about things. For somebody who had started watching cricket with the zeal of a fanatic only a couple of years earlier, there was one incident relating to the final against South Africa that I have still not been able to forget.
It was the final over of the match and a win was guaranteed even before the penultimate ball was being bowled. Everyone, quite expectedly, had begun to celebrate. And as much as it may surprise you, it was Kohli who asked his team to calm down and wait for the match to be over. A lot has been written about how he needs to keep a check on his aggression and it is only natural that maturity has done that to him. But the incident that I just stated was something of an early indication that the guy had a method to his madness.
And as with many other players who went on to play for the senior team after success at the junior level, he was no different. After a not so impressive debut ODI series in Sri Lanka where he played as an opener in the absence of Virender Sehwag, he went back to hard grind of domestic cricket and eventually made a comeback the following year in the ICC Champions Trophy where a sturdy 79 not out against West Indies in testing conditions kept his place in the squad. And his form since then is yet to see a downfall.
Why is he as Successful as he is?
Now, that is a question that must have done the rounds in several cricket debates. What is the reason behind the phenomenal success rate of Virat Kohli? Is it because of something he was born with? I would certainly not agree with that. For all the cricketing legends who have talked about this man, have heaped praises about his willingness to learn. He might just seem like the overly aggressive type of person who doesn’t shy away from a fight, somewhere down the line, he is like that smart ass guy in every class who quietly does his job and doesn’t let on. For all that he has already achieved, he keeps improving that little bit more to strengthen his technique.
Though technique and talent are certainly significant in the making of a legendary cricketer, temperament is another factor that this Delhi lad has learned with time. And like he has said in several interviews, that test innings in Adelaide where he was the lone centurion in an otherwise hapless scorecard was one where he showed that he belonged to the top tier of cricket. His temperament went through a sea of change and the Virat Kohli that we know today is a changed man.
Failing the English Test
England is one place where Virat Kohli is yet to taste success and his inability to play with the moving ball just outside the off stump still puts a serious question mark over his supremacy in all conditions. It is certainly agreeable that Kohli has scored runs against quality opposition in testing conditions when everyone has failed but that one test series in English conditions where James Anderson made him his bunny was one that he must still have in mind.
India hasn’t toured England since and with a possible tour next year, it will be interesting to see if Kohli can get rid of this little flaw of his with it being his first as the captain of the test team. If he passes the English test, the question mark about who the best batsman in the world is, shall become self-explanatory.
A Statistical Comparison
While it is not viable for statistics to decide anything in a sport, it is quite unfortunate that they often become the only logical parameters to compare two different players. In the case of Kohli, he only has competition from three other players who have stomped authority in the international circuit in the past 5 years or less.
As these statistics suggest, Virat Kohli has been the king of it all in limited overs cricket. For a player to average over 70 in ODIs and T20Is in matches that he won is something where none of the other three come close. While his performance in test matches is the least illustrative of the four, his continuous will to improve is definitely starting to show results in even the longest format of the game.
Oh Captain, My Captain: The Leader Virat Kohli
From being the captain of a young team that won the U-19 World Cup for India to leading India to whitewash New Zealand in a test series, Kohli has come a long way even in the form of a leader. He thrives under pressure and likes the additional responsibility of leading a team. As he showed in the Indian Premier League this year where he almost single-handedly took Bangalore to a near title triumph only to fall short in the final, his batting gets better when he gets to captain a side. That he scored the highest runs scored by any player in any edition of the IPL that has played so far and beat the second best by a long margin only goes on to testify the facts.
His ability to identify and use bowlers in the right conditions is also one that many have heaped praise for. Often known more of a bowler’s captain for backing the bowlers and giving them the right amount of confidence, Kohli has a task on his hand if he is to lead this India to test wins across the world. But for what we know him, he will certainly be up for the task. Right now, however, the onus will be to take full advantage of the long home season ahead.
With a career that still has a lot to experience and plenty of accolades raring to come his way, the biography of this man could only have one name — The Rise and Rise of Virat Kohli.