Fiery Indian batsman Virat Kohli has arrived. Yet again!
If chasing 321 in 40 overs to stay alive in a tournament when the chips are totally down is next to impossible, to do it casually in the 37th is truly phenomenal.
His 86-ball 133 is up there with the very best.
To see Lasith Malinga being hit for 24 runs in an over (all Virat) is a rare sight indeed. And the Hobart Oval is not a smallish ground. He looked totally clueless after being hit for 96 runs in 7.4 overs.
(That too after bowling brilliantly for most of the Triangular series so far.)
Virat had a great 2010 when he missed 1000 runs in a year by 70 runs.
He made up for that in 2011 when he belted 1141 runs.
And now the outlook for 2012 looks even greater.
He's hit 373 runs in the series at an average of about 53.
Virat's already become the fastest Indian to touch 3000 runs. To put things in perspective, when the great Sachin Tendulkar had played as many matches as Virat, then not only had he scored just about two-thirds of his runs, but had only one century as against Virat's 9!
Of course few are yet to come near the 20-odd years of consistency that Sachin has given (Only Pakistani legend Javed Miandad comes to mind). But then again Virat debuted in 2008 and so far has got better in each and every year, so there's every reason to be optimistic.
He's already started 2012 with a bang.
Spirit of the age
Every player represents the spirit of his age. Sunil Gavaskar was the first who showed us that we could take on any one in the world. We first became world champions under Kapil Dev. Sourav Ganguly taught us how to look the toughest of the tough in the eye. All three were great captains and Virat could be one in the future too.
Virat represents the new India with a new sense of aggression, freedom and a can-do spirit. If Sourav's boys could chase 326 in the 50th over, then MS Dhoni's boys do even better by chasing 321 in the 37th!
That India is doing such things is thanks to players like Virat.
In fact even though he got into a controversy of showing his finger to the crowd in the Test series in Australia, you will still get the opposition's respect if you come out with sterling performances like this.
The master of the chase
Along with captain Dhoni, he is India's most reliable batsman in the chase. Virat's ODI average is 47-odd. If that isn't solid enough, he averages 55 when India bats second. In winning matches that goes to even higher nearer to 61!
And he has done it at the highest stage. In the World Cup final we won in 2011, we were in real trouble when we lost Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag cheaply. His 83-run stand with Gautam Gambhir set up the platform for Dhoni’s final victory assault.
It is no surprise that 8 of his 9 centuries have come in winning causes. And 6 of those have come batting second.
The greatest Test hope
India have been struggling for Test replacements for the Big 3. But one is already here. In the recently concluded Australian tour, he emerged as the highest run getter from India. That's quite a difficult feat to do in a team that has superstars like Tendulkar, Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.
This has been Kohli's Test trial by fire and he looks like going from strength to strength. While most youngsters prefer the shorter formats of the game including IPL, Virat has said time and again that excelling in Tests is his biggest priority.
That way his 116 at the Adelaide Oval will go a long way in establishing his pedigree.
He's proved himself in international T20s and ODIs and even in the IPL. Now Test cricket is his next big challenge. If he does well in that, then he's already the forerunner to become India's next regular Test captain.
Forget India, Virat is the most exciting 20-plus player in the world!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger. He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/