Kohli will get even better with a cool head

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 21, 2012 07:54 hrs

Not long ago Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma were deemed as the front runners for the slots in the Test side when Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid decide to ride off into the sunset with Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Manoj Tiwari also in the race. Now it is clear that Kohli is not just the leader of the GenNext generation of batsmen he has clinched the No 3 spot vacated by Dravid's retirement.

The runs he has notched up in recent times and more important the manner in which they have been scored marks him out as a young man who can go places should he keep his feet firmly planted on Mother Earth and also be free of injuries.

To put it succinctly, Kohli has everything to make it big even in the highly competitive world of international cricket. He has all the strokes with plenty of time to play them, a rock solid defence based on a sound technique, a hunger for success, an insatiable appetite for big scores and above all an ideally competitive temperament. He is not overawed by an opponent's reputation.

Indeed, Kohli typifies the aggressive and fearless modern day young cricketer. He wears his passion on his sleeve though he can certainly do without the invectives he utters now and then. His hot-headedness has got him into trouble with those in authority. Attitude is one thing, short temper quite another and the sooner Kohli acquires a cool head he is bound to get even better. And that will be bad news for bowlers, fielders and captains.

Bat in hand, Kohli displays wondrous skills. That he outshone the most lustrous batting line-up in the world in Australia is the ultimate tribute that can be paid to him. His hitting is bold and vigorous and certainly not slogging. He also has cultured strokes all round the wicket. He relishes a challenge and is at his best when the pressure is on.

His 86-ball unbeaten 133 to help India chase down 321 in under 40 overs in the CB series game against Sri Lanka and his latest hundred against Pakistan are just two examples of the heights that Kohli can reach. Add to all this, his amazing fielding skills and you have one of the most exciting young talents in international cricket.

Some of the feats against Kohli's name can only belong to a special talent. In his last four ODI innings he has hit three centuries and a fifty. In 11 matches in 2012 he has hit 730 runs with three hundreds and three fifties and averages 73. He is the second highest ODI scorer this year just eleven runs behind Sangakkara who has played eight more matches.

He was the world's highest run scorer in ODIs last year with 1381 runs and second highest in 2010 with 995. India have won ten of the 11 ODIs in which Kohli has scored a hundred. His 183 is the joint highest score by an Indian while chasing. His 183 is the highest ODI innings by any batsman against Pakistan surpassing Brian Lara’s 156.

Moreover he is the master of the chase and the numbers he's stacking up are staggering: in 48 innings batting second, he averages 58.40 and has seven hundreds and 13 half-centuries. Seven of his eleven hundreds have come in successful run chases.

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So much for his ODI exploits which admittedly have attracted considerable attention. But this focus on his limited overs sparkle should not take away any credit for the manner in which he has worked on his game in cricket's traditional format. It is not every young player who can have an admirable record in both formats of the game.

Suresh Raina for example has an excellent record in ODIs but has disappointed in Test cricket despite a hundred on debut. Much the same can be said about Yuvraj Singh. Kohli however has bridged the gap outstandingly. Despite playing for a side that has been outplayed in England and Australia - and all his eight Tests have been away from home - Kohli has battled the odds and come out with a more than acceptable record. In the midst of the 8-0 rout in England and Australia, Kohli came out shining.

Kohli's elevation to the vice captaincy was not unexpected. It might have been reward for his adventurous and match winning exploits in Australia but truth be told he has a mature head on his young shoulders and has led India to triumph in the Under-19 World Cup in 2008. In any case the 23-year-old from Delhi has risen to the occasion and underlined the fact that additional responsibilities are not going to have an adverse effect on his batting.

Even as cricket fans come to terms with Dravid's retirement  and the imminent retirements of Tendulkar and Laxman, they have found a new hero in Kohli. And the marketing men have got a new brand name. Latest reports indicate that Kohli ranks next only to Tendulkar and Dhoni as far as endorsements are concerned.

But one is sure that Kohli is mature enough not to let all the attention and adulation go to his head. One can just see him having a glance at his batting figures - he averages over 50 in both ODIs and first class cricket and in the mid thirties in Tests - with the burning desire to do even better.

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