India’s new young star Virat Kohli had a false start in ODIs. He was dropped, but when he returned, he stayed put. He had a bad start in Tests and was dropped again. On his return, he is emerging as the brightest hope for the future.
Now he has done it in the T20 scene too, scoring a hat-trick. After an indifferent beginning to his career in the shortest format of the game, he has emerged as Mr Consistent here too.
Make no mistake about it. Indian cricket is currently living in the Kohli Era. Never has an Indian dominated the team in all three formats of the game.
After the high of the 2011 ODI World Cup came the 0-8 overseas debacle in Tests. If India has been able to salvage any pride, it has been thanks to the bat of Kohli. A look at the coming of age of the superlative batsman in each of the forms of the game…
1. ODIs, 2009: In 2008, Kohli made his debut in the Sri Lanka series in India, but failed to make an impact. When he got a second chance in 2009, he grabbed it with both hands and hasn’t looked back ever since. He has scored close to 4000 runs already with a superlative average of nearly 52.
He has belted runs in the region of 1000 in a calendar year for three straight years now. In 2012 he averages 73 with a strike rate of 94. He is getting better and better.
He has already played two stand-out innings this year. The first was when we chased a stiff target of 321 runs in a mere 36.4 overs. His 133 runs off 86 balls is the stuff of legends. He was at it again in just 18 days when we chased a target of 330 thanks to Kohli’s 183.
He has scored 13 centuries and the heartening fact is that 12 of them have come in victories. The only one we lost was thanks to a Duckworth/Lewis match. 8 of those have come while chasing. He is a true champion indeed.
Though it is early days yet, he still has a crack at 50 ODI centuries, being just 23 years of age.
2. Tests 2011: Kohli had another false start in Tests when he failed in the tour of West Indies and was dropped. But since then, he’s emerged as India’s biggest hope for the future. He scored two half-centuries when the Windies toured India and got going.
But he was a revelation in the Australia tour where he emerged as the top run scorer in a team with Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag and Gambhir. His fighting century in Adelaide was the only bright spot in the whole Test series.
Virat continued with his good form in the New Zealand series where he hit a century and two half-centuries, averaging 106.
The upcoming England series is his best chance to consolidate and become our top Test player. The South Africa series next year will be his biggest test. But he sure has the temperament to do it.
3. T20s 2012: Here, Kohli went without a half-century for his first 9 matches. But in the last few months, he has arrived with a bang. He scored 4 50s in the space of just 6 matches. To put things in perspective, captain MS Dhoni is yet to score a T20 50 in his entire career.
It is thanks to Kohli that we won our first Super 8 match after 2007, when we thrashed Pakistan with an exceedingly good run rate.
By the match with South Africa, India had become totally dependent on Kohli. So when he got out for 2 runs, his first single digit score in 10 matches, our World Cup hopes left the crease along with him. We could muster up only 152 runs, hardly enough if you were required to win by 31 runs.
Kohli has the right attitude and usually delivers under pressure. The Proteas match was a rare exception.
It would be a good idea to make him T20 captain and give him a fresh team to build for the T20 WC in Bangladesh in 2014.
Kohli also looks to be a long-term replacement for Dhoni in the other forms of the game.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/