Virat Kohli has been the backbone of the Indian batting for the last few years; the Delhi boy is the master of timing run chases to perfection and he once again proved his mettle with a classy 49 against Pakistan in the Asia Cup T20 on Saturday in Mirpur. Up against a red-hot Mohammad Amir in the form of his life and in the middle of a spell in which he had sent three of the top four of the Indian batting order packing, Virat displayed great guts and respect for the opponent and jockeyed his team on the brink of an important victory.
The stylish right-handed batsman weathered the early storm, exercising caution against Amir’s in-swinging deliveries and showing the full face of the blade to defend his out-swingers. Kohli bailed Team India out of a potentially calamitous situation and slammed a crucial 49 runs against India’s arch-rivals, arguably the best knock of his T20I career. Going through a rocky phase himself with his personal life and breakup with Anushka Sharma being the talk of the town, the 27-year old overcame the mental barrier and let his bat do the talking.
Talking about coming of age, when he first announced his relationship with the actress, Virat Kohli came under criticism for misfiring in the 2015 Cricket World Cup semifinal against Australia, as his critics spoke of how his personal life was affecting his cricket. But to back up a successful tour of Australia in which he smashed two centuries in 5 ODIs and three consecutive fifties in the T20Is with a sparkling innings against Pakistan, amidst all the turmoil in his personal life, is not only a fitting reply to his critics but an overwhelming sign that Indian Cricket’s big hope is ready to take on the mantle and guide the team to successes in the coming years.
Not someone to let his personal life get in the way, an 18-year old Kohli was batting on an overnight score of 40 against Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy when he lost his dad at 3 in the morning. Not many expected him to turn up the next morning, but Virat came out and produced a tenacious innings of 90. It is this attitude and dedication to the sport that has earned the Indian superstar admirers from around the globe. And with Kohli, you just get the feeling that he is a leader of men, and someone one can bank on when it comes to leading Indian cricket by example over the next decade.
With the technique and temperament to be successful in every format of the game, Kohli cutting loose and playing fearless cricket is strokemaking of the highest order, one of the most gorgeous sights in modern day cricket. Be it that exquisite cover drive or the flick of the wrists to play the on-drive, both of which he meted out to Wahab Riaz with such grace on Saturday, every Virat Kohli shot is sheer genius. A very uncomplicated batsman who relies more on playing straight down the field than trying to play cross-batted shots like the generation of cricketers coming through at the moment, Kohli is probably the last of the test-match batsmen. And it is not like he can’t reinvent himself, his cut shot came into prominence in the recent tour of Australia, a shot he hasn’t played much often in his career. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, as they say.
With centuries coming every other week, the need to celebrate with expletives has diminished. He doesn’t complete the hundred and goes on a swearing spree anymore, instead just raises his bat, takes in all the adulation and gets on with the job. His maturity, his ability to take up responsibility and his controlled aggression are reassuring signs for Indian cricket. Here is a lad who is here to stay, who is here to make a mark for himself in Cricket. The brash, immature and volatile Kohli has been replaced by a calmer, self-assured and determined Kohli in the last couple of years. And that is only good news for Indian cricket.
Although he wasn’t pivotal for India at the 2011 World Cup win, he played a crucial innings of 35 in the final against Sri Lanka to set up the match for Gambhir and Dhoni. But the World Cup ended with a quote of imaculate grace from Virat Kohli at the post-match celebrations when he spoke of how Sachin Tendulkar carried India for the last twenty years – perhaps a touching reminder that the man to finally take over the burden from Sachin had arrived.
In Virat Kohli, India have the best batsman in the world by some distance. A man for all formats, all situations and more importantly, the man to continue Sachin Tendulkar’s great legacy.