A phenomenon called Virat Kohli
Cricket is always in the news because of its enviable profile in India and the way the media never misses anything. And Indian cricket is always, it would appear, in the news for one reason or the other. The latest positive happening is the sensation going by the name Virat Kohli, the Indian captain and as every expert now acknowledge, one of the best things that has happened in the game of cricket itself, let alone Indian cricket. Only some time back his selection for the coveted Khel Ratna national award had caused a bit of heart burns to another nominee of a different sport who had missed the high point of his career for reasons he did not understand. But that was just an aberration, simply put, for Kohli is on a different plane of excellence. It is difficult to look beyond him for his cricket bat has done enough to circle him out as one who is destined to become not just one among the best that the sport has known but probably the very best.
Every era throws up a hero or two. The 70s and early 80s brought to fore in Indian cricket the magnificence of Sunil Gavaskar. Diminutive but a man with indomitable resolve, Gavaskar played at a time when the West Indies Test cricket was at its peak with a range of fast bowlers who were a terror to say the least. The helmets had not come in then and it needed quite a bit of guts not just to face some of the fastest bowlers but also to prove your mettle as a batsman. Gavaskar did this against the West Indies and went on to carve a niche for himself in the world of cricket. Until he left the scene the interest invariably centered on him not only for his appetite for runs but the way he made them with his classic technique and resolve. None believed there would be another player of his class but as time went on, we have seen Gavaskar's tenure in Indian cricket was not just one golden period but there were more to come!
Indian cricket's speciality was its ability to bring up talents of similar quality or even better. Post-Gavaskar era, there were more to follow like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag and others. Each had his standing but perhaps none encompassed the mass' dream as much as Tendulkar. People saw in him a Gavaskar and this little master like his mentor from the same Mumbai went on to prove what class, ability and resolve can do. Tendulkar was unstoppable in his time. His style, grace and the moment of expectations that he brings to the competition when he arrives on the crease is now part of Indian cricket folklore. With the limited over version of the game also gaining importance in his time, Tendulkar meant a fantasy to cricket fans and he would hardly fail in meeting the demands of his adoring fans. Rarely did he fail and that is why each time he strode on to the wicket, cricket fans would only dream of a century from him or at the least a few lusty hits to the gallery just the way he did in that desert storm in Sharjah to set alight the cricket world with his prodigious talent.
What will you say then of a new talent who combines all the finesse of a Gavaskar, the gallant approach of a Tendulkar and the doughty outlook of a Dravid to present a package that can only be described in one word: Sensational! Kohli is just that and perhaps more. He is definitely proving that with his exploits till date. Keen observers believe no batting record in cricket, perhaps even captaincy, will remain the same as long as he is there. He is well on his way to do that after his latest achievement of being the only Indian to score three ODI centuries in succession and this soon after he had become the quickest to reach the 10,000 run-mark. Kohli needed just 205 innings to reach the mammoth mark where his great predecessor Tendulkar had needed 259 innings. Perhaps the only note of sadness that he must have felt in Pune on reaching his rare hat trick of centuries was that his effort still could not help India win that match.
But all that should change before long not just because of the way he is making runs but the way he is conducting himself. Pressure seems to bring the best out of this player. Perhaps that has to do with his tough upbringing. “His success story was the outcome of a fierce fight for recognition of his talents,” wrote my friend a former colleague Vijay Lokapally in his well-documented book ('Driven') on this Delhi player. It was a struggle that even had a huge emotional factor too. He lost his father when he had just begun to get into business of serious cricket. Hours after losing his father he had come to the ground for a Ranji match, displaying that rare resolve that could come only to players who are destined to make it big. Kohli has proved that.
With 62 international centuries already under his belt, Kohli can be said to be well on his way to sink Tendulkar's world record of 100 centuries. Age is still in his favour and more importantly the man himself seems to be performing optimally, a phase where peak forms translate into tall scores. With so much cricket around in the days ahead, chances are that Kohli, already the captain in all forms of the game, will set fresh benchmarks that is not going to be easy for reach. That is what we said during Tendulkar's time. But who knows, like Tendulkar earlier, Kolhi too will inspire a better breed of cricketers to emerge and do wonders again! The story will go on, perhaps!