Till about a year a year ago, Virat Kohli was just one of the claimants for a place in the Indian middle order among the many GenNext young batsmen who hoped to consolidate their place in the side once the trio of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman rode off into the sunset. The competition was pretty stiff for the other claimants included the likes of Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteswar Pujara, Suresh Raina and Manoj Tiwari.
Today it can safely be stated that even as Kohli has stolen a march over the others and is now firmly settled in the Indian middle order for the Test matches, it is his ODI career that is attracting considerable attention. He was always a cert in the side as far as the limited overs game is concerned but at the moment he has leapfrogged over everyone else and is the leading batsman not just as far as the Indian team is concerned but also in the international game.
A quick look at some astounding figures will put that last sentence into proper perspective. He was the highest run getter in ODIs last year with 1381 runs and the second highest in 2010 with 995. He has already scored more than 1000 runs in ODIs this year at an average of 77.
He has scored over 800 runs over a ten innings span - a unique feat in the history of ODIs. He is the quickest ever to get 13 hundreds – just 86 innings. He has a career average of 52.20 – one of a handful to pass the half century figure in ODIs. He has notched up five hundreds in his last eight innings and this includes his career best 183 against Pakistan in the Asia Cup at Dhaka in March.
India have won 12 of the 13 ODIs in which Kohli has scored a hundred. His 183 is joint highest score by an Indian while chasing. It is also the highest ODI innings by any batsman against Pakistan surpassing Brian Lara’s 156. Moreover he is the master of the chase – eight of his 13 hundreds have come in successful run chases.
Impressive as these figures are, it is the manner and circumstances in which he has made these runs that enhance the quality of his batting. His two centuries in the ongoing series in Sri Lanka have been scored when the first wicket has fallen early. But then Kohli’s biggest asset is his temperament. He is least overawed by a bowler’s reputation or the precarious position his side is in. He plays his strokes freely – even with gay abandon – befitting someone who is confidence personified.
Moreover his insatiable appetite for runs and his hunger for success remains unmatched. This was well brought out in his reaction when he was out for 38 in the third ODI. Having tasted so much success of late he made his disappointment crystal clear. Part of the disappointment must also have been because of the fact that he had taken 65 balls to score 38.
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.
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 though there are happy indications that he is curbing his temper without compromising on his aggression.
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. Add to all this his amazing fielding skills and you have one of the most exciting young talents in international cricket.
Kohli’s elevation to the vice captaincy was not entirely 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 he has risen to the occasion and underlined the fact that additional responsibilities are not going to have an adverse effect on his batting.
Kohli has just carried on from where he left off last season. Right now he is in a league all his own. He has tasted considerable success but he refuses to sit back on his laurels. He is still hungry for greener pastures and is always on the look-out for new peaks to conquer. At 23 the world is his oyster. Here is a young man who can go places should he keep his feet firmly planted on Mother Earth and also be free of injuries. And that is bad news for bowlers, fielders and captains.