A lot of really good players when put in the pressure cooker fall totally apart. Some on the other hand get better and better. One example was VVS Laxman. Sometimes he would come out with some really mediocre knocks against mediocre teams. However in a pressure cooker situation, he would overshadow all the legends of his team.
Another such person is Virat Kohli. A man of immense talent, he thrives under pressure like no other. He first came to the party in ODIs. Not only is he on course to break Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 49 ODI centuries (Kohli has 21), but most of them have come batting second.
A whopping 14 centuries have come chasing and India has won almost all of those matches. In the World Cup final in 2011, India were reeling at 31-2 chasing 275 when an 83-run partnership with Gautam Gambhir steadied India.
Who can forget his downright brutal 133 off 86 against Sri Lanka in Hobart in 2012?
India needed to chase down 321 in 40 overs to gain a bonus point. Kohli got us across the line in a mere 36.4 overs. Had we been batting first with that score, Kohli would have easily got a double century. In the very next match he hit a blistering 183 off 148 to chase down 330 in the 48th over.
Once upon a time, Michael Bevan was considered the greatest ODI finisher. He was surpassed by captain MS Dhoni. Now Kohli has bettered Dhoni. Kohli was a late starter in international T20s too. In 2014, Kohli scored has scored 385 runs in 7 matches at an astonishing average of 96.3. His career batting average is a stratospheric 46.3. To put that in perspective, no-one in international T20 cricket (minimum 20 innings) has an average of 40+. He is an exclusive club.
Here again, he thrives under pressure. Batting second, Kohli averages 80.3 which is mind blowing. He is clearly the Bradman of international T20s. (Bradman had a Test average of 99.94). In T20s biggest stage in the World Cup final, he hit a 77 off 58. To put that in perspective, all other Indian batsman together hit a pathetic 47 off 62. Even though Sri Lanka won, it initially struggled to reach the target. It was as of Kohli was playing on a different pitch.
In Tests also he was seen as a bit of an underachiever. Before the current Australia series began, he had played 29 Tests and had a batting average below 40. That’s not that great when you look at the fact that once almost all of India’s top Test batsmen had 50+ averages.
Then again, when you apply the pressure cooker Test, he comes out on top. In the first Test at Adelaide, Kohli was handed the Test captaincy against an Australian team that was in fighting form, desperate to give the late Phil Hughes a fitting tribute.
Australia scored a formidable 517-7 and Kohli scored a stellar century to take India to a respectable 444. In the second innings, we were coasting at 242-2 chasing 364. A shocking umpiring decision against Ajinkya Rahane started a batting collapse.
Kohli hit a blistering 141 off 175 and with a bit of luck could have led India to a memorable victory. Now Kohli has 3 centuries in 2 Tests at Adelaide. Many don’t have that many Test centuries on Australian soil in their whole careers!
The Last 6 innings on Australian soil for Kohli reads… 44, 75, 116, 22, 115, 141. That’s 513 runs at an average of 85.5. Another bit of trivia points to his class. Kohli has 8 Test centuries and 5 of them have come out of the sub-continent.
2014 has been a heart-breaking year for Kohli. We lost in the T20 World Cup final. We almost won a Test each on South African and New Zealand soil. We squandered a 1-0 lead in England. And now this heart-breaking Adelaide Test.
But Kohli should not be disheartened. He has made a brilliant debut as Test captain. India has been close to winning so many matches and fallen short. With Kohli’s talent and attitude, Kohli will lead India to many Test, ODI and international T20 matches. It’s just a matter of time.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/