For quite some time, Australian Michael Bevan was considered the greatest ODI chaser ever. In winning matches while batting second, he stayed not out till the end in 25 matches and scored 1020 runs in those with one century and 8 half-centuries. Overall, he had an average of 53.6 spread across 232 matches, something unheard of in those days.
Chases were also much more difficult and tricky at that time and it’s just not just about the numbers. Bevan was a legend.
Along came India captain MS Dhoni. In winning matches while batting second, he has stayed not out till the end in 34 matches and scored 1525 runs in those with two centuries and 9 half-centuries. He averages 52.4 spread across 231 matches.
The best part of Dhoni was that he was the master of high chases. He made chasing 250+ a walk in the park. Dhoni began quite early in 2005 when KC Sangakkara’s 138 powered Sri Lanka to 298 in Jaipur.
Captain Rahul Dravid sent Dhoni one down when Sachin Tendulkar had fallen and the score was 7. What followed was absolute carnage. Dhoni blasted 183 runs in 145 balls studded with 10 sixes as we chased down the target in the first ball of the 47th over.
When India made the world record of registering 17 consecutive ODI wins batting second, Dhoni played a key role. He would come down the order and get India the target even if the asking rate was 10.
The climax was probably our famous World Cup final win in 2011. His 91 off 79 balls saw India home in the 49th over. His last ball 6 is still fresh in everyone’s eyes. How many times has Dhoni hit the last ball of an innings for 6? How many times has Dhoni hit the winning runs? It’s almost cliched.
Dhoni could lay claim to being a greater finisher or chaser than Bevan: But the greatest ever?
Then along came young gun Virat Kohli.
His statistics have made both Bevan and Dhoni pale before him and he is just 24!
In winning matches while batting second, he has stayed not out till the end in 14 matches in which he has scored 1214 runs with 6 centuries and 7 half-centuries!
In fact Kohli has scored 11 centuries when India has batted second and India has won all of those matches. Five of these matches have been 300+ scores and with him even 350+ is not enough.
From 2012 to now, India has chased a target of 320+ four times and you don’t even have to guess to know that Kohli has scored a century in all of them. His form has been downright lethal and sublime.
Target 321 in 50 overs? 40 overs for bonus point? No problem! Kohli will get you there in 36.4 overs. Just two 6s required. Anything can be achieved in boundaries and singles.
Target 330, versus arch nemesis Pakistan? Don’t worry. Kohli will get you there in 47.5 overs. Just a solitary six required in a personal score of 183.
Stiff target of 351? Partner Dhoni to take things to the last over? Don’t fret, Kohli’s there for that too with the third-fastest ODI century for India.
All-time India record target of 360? This time you can do it with 6.3 overs to spare thanks to the fastest century of all time by an Indian. This time it’s a madder innings than usual: 100 off 52 balls with 7 sixes.
It seems Mad Max Kohli can do just about anything.
118 ODIs. Nearly 5000 runs. A whopping 17 centuries at this stage with an average in the range of 52. Kohli can seriously think of going past the likes of Tendulkar.
Time was when Tendulkar, Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir were the greatest Indian batting line-up of all time.
We already had the Mad Max duo of Kohli and Dhoni when Shikhar Dhawan joined the party.
Then at Chinnaswamy Stadium in the final ODI against Australia, Rohit Sharma blasted a blistering 209 studded with a world record 16 sixes.
So it’s the troika of Rohit-Dhawan-Kohli at the beginning with Dhoni at the end.
No wonder that we are the defending world champions, winners of the last ICC Champions trophy and the ICC No. 1 ranking holders to boot.
An Indian chase of 400+?
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/