August 18, 2008, I remember a 20 something lad opening the innings for India in a One Day International against Sri Lanka at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium. He looked fresh and naïve, quite similar to a first-year college student. His stance was natural as he stood there, wide-eyed, to face his first delivery in international cricket. His stay at the crease was quite ordinary as he could only score a dozen runs before being trapped by Nuwan Kulasekara. The disappointment on his face was screaming aloud as he silently made his way back to the dugout.
Almost a decade after making his One Day International debut, this lad from Delhi has transformed the art of batsmanship. Talk of purple patches and only one name would come to your mind i.e. Virat Kohli. The Indian skipper is going through a phase where he’s eating hundreds for breakfast. Scoring a hundred appears to be a cakewalk while Virat’s batting.
It’s quite astounding to see that even the most venerated laws of average have been overthrown by Virat. It certainly won’t be a hyperbole to say that he has gone beyond consistently. The fact is that he’s become infallible and a monstrous average of 186 in the recently concluded ODI series where he ended up notching 558 runs in six matches is enough to substantiate the claim. The way he bats and scores runs makes batting look effortlessly simple. The 29-year-old ended up scoring as many as three breathtaking centuries in the recently concluded six-match One-Day International series against South Africa. The pace and the consistency at which the modern master is churning out hundreds is commendable. With 35 centuries in the limited overs format under his belt already, he’s scaling new heights which have left the entire cricketing fraternity in awe.
He’s the undisputed master of run chases. 21 of his 35 centuries in colored clothing have come while chasing. Further, 19 out of those 21 centuries while chasing have resulted in an Indian victory. Even during his early days, he used to show glimpses of his masterclass. One of his classiest innings came at Hobart when the Indian side faced the Lankans in a must-win clash. Needing 321 from 40 overs at a rate of a fraction over eight to secure a bonus point, Kohli anchored the innings and scored a belligerent 133 N.O. off just 86 deliveries to give the Indians an unlikely victory.
The two basic qualities that form the heart and soul of Virat Kohli’s batting are his confidence and game awareness. The confidence with which he approaches every single game makes him a tough and sturdy character who loves steering the side out of precarious situations, at times almost single-handedly. He might appear a bit uncomfortable at first, but once he gets going, nothing can break his concentration. Be it the regular fall of wickets at the other end or even the constant failure of the top order. He takes ownership of the decisions made by him and tries to back them with actions to get the job done and dusted regardless of the criticism
His commitment is also what sets him apart from the rest. His ability to execute his strokes with surgical precision makes him an able stroke maker. A stylish flick through mid-wicket, a booming cover drive through extra-cover, and a fierce cut stroke are some of his trademark strokes. Also, he’s a livewire on the cricket field and is often seen taking some spectacular catches. Even the TV screens can’t hide the bubble of energy surrounding the Delhi lad as he goes about marshalling his troops, often leading by example. He’s expressive and prepared for any given situation. Throw a challenge at him and he’d grab it with both his hands. Ask him to walk on water and he’d say “Right mate, just tell me how many steps I need to walk”. At times, he can be seen screaming at his partner while batting, particularly Rohit Sharma.
Being the Captain of the Indian side is not the easiest job to undertake, but Virat seems to have learned a lot about captaincy at a considerably young age. The first-ever bilateral series win on South African soil is just a teaser of what Virat Kohli can achieve in the years to come if he continues to lead his troops fearlessly. With the Indians registering their maiden series victory on the South African soil, Virat would now have his eyes on unfurling the national flag on other foreign soils this year.