In the past “The Wall” Rahul Dravid adopted the classical approach for Tests for Team India and simply killed the opposition with his defence and dot balls. He was quite effective.
Then we had the explosive Virender Sehwag, who changed the rules of the game and massacred the bowlers with his non-stop sixes. He was equally effective.
But now somebody has come with a great middle path that as of now seems even more effective than the above two strategies. His name is Virat Kohli and he is the emperor of both singles and fours.
There are many times that Kohli will go on the rampage like Sehwag, but when you look at the scoreboard you will find no sixes.
There are many times that Kohli’s defence looks as impregnable as Dravid’s, but when you look at the scoreboard you will find much lesser dot balls.
The Kohli School of Batting is effective, quick and brutal, but with minimum risk as the ball is hit firmly on the ground or in the gap at all times.
Kohli truly plays differently. We will never know how a batsman thinks but he probably grades the balls into various categories. A great ball has to be defended. An OK ball has to be hit for a single. A bad ball has to be hit for a four. A really bad ball has to be hit for a six.
During a long bowling spell keep defending. Take risks during bad spells.
Kohli’s mind seems to be totally uncluttered. There seem to be only two types of balls in his scheme of thinking.
So the philosophy is…
All good balls have to be hit for a single.
All bad balls have to be hit for a four.
Then there’s the terrific field placement and tremendous running between the wickets that’s the icing on the cake. Thanks to that, quite a bit of the singles become twos and some twos become threes. Occasionally a four may also become a six but only if there’s minimum risk involved. Rarely will Kohli get out caught going for a stupid slog.
Reminds one of the Ram Lakhan song of the 1980s: 1 2 ka 4 aur 4 2 ka 1. Only that song talked about making a quick buck via corruption and hera pheri.
What Kohli does is perfectly legal and it’s hera pheri of a different kind where he plays around with the rules of the game and 1s 2s and 4s flow freely.
Since 1877, in the history of Test cricket, no player as captain has ever scored more than 5 double centuries. Kohli has 6 in 16 odd months!
In the past Kohli had a 200 with no sixes and a strike rate of 70 along with a 204 with no sixes and a strike rate of 83. Now at the Feroz Shah Kotla he hit 243 with no sixes and a still a high strike rate of 85 in the third Test of the Sri Lanka series without a single six.
Rohit Sharma at the other end hit two sixes and was out on 65 as Kohli looked on!
And that’s been a feature of Kohli’s game. His highest ODI score is 183 off 148 balls and you won’t be surprised that it features just one six.
That is also one of the reasons why there are no nervous nineties for Kohli and he simply continues with his 4 2 ka 1 strategy and crosses 100 or 200 before the opposition even understands what is happening!
Kohli can be the fastest player to score in both Test and ODI cricket without needing to hit hardly any sixes and that is quite a rare talent indeed.
The only place where you can’t get away with this attitude is T20s and that’s where Kohli switches gears. In international T20s, his sixes are more frequent. In all T20 formats combined, he has hit more than 200 sixes.
So how do you get a person out who keeps rotating the strike and frustrating the bowlers and clearing the boundary without taking a risk?
While there is consensus that Kohli will break all of Sachin Tendulkar’s ODI records, if the opposition doesn’t find an answer to the above question, Tendulkar’s Test records will be dust too!
At the Feroz Shah Kotla, the Sri Lankans kept complaining, moaning and disrupting the game due to Delhi’s air pollution and that totally broke Kohli’s rhythm. He got out on 243 when a triple century was there for the asking. You won’t always be able to get him out like that!
We are looking at the first genuine all-time great in all three formats of the game and at just the age of 29, you still feel that Kohli, far from peaking, is still upping his game!
The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here