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Virat Kohli: Best in the World?

After a staggeringly consistent run of high scores in this year's Indian Premier League, is Virat Kohli the best white-ball batsman worldwide?

When Chris Gayle, the man with more T20 runs than anyone else, says “Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers are like Batman and Superman together”, it genuinely must have some significance. Virat Kohli, in particular, has been in such terrific touch that you can no longer brush it off as just a run of great form.

In T20s in this calendar year, in 26 innings, Virat Kohli averages a mind-boggling 102.93 at a strike rate of 146.90, with an aggregate tally of 1544 runs. He has scored four hundreds and 13 fifties during this period and most of them have come in match-winning causes. He took India almost single-handedly to the WT20 semi-finals, but his efforts were in vain, as his innings of 89* did not prove to be enough to guide India to the finals.

Kohli has been racking up Bradman-esque numbers in this IPL this season, scoring 973 runs in 16 matches at 81.08 and striking at 151.20. One of the most extraordinary and unvarying facets of his batting has been to keep his game plan simple and play in an orthodox manner without altering his technique too much.

The 27-year-old said in an interview to that, “It [persisting with his methods] is a conscious effort, to be very honest. It is more like ‘Eat, sleep, train, repeat’. If you want to be consistent, you need to be boring with your training, your food and your batting habits. You cannot take the sport for granted. During the last match [against Mumbai Indians] I told Dan [Vettori] that I felt like I could hit every ball of the first over from Tim Southee for a six. But I stopped myself because I don’t want to disrespect the sport. Once you start taking the sport and your form for granted, a bad patch comes in and it makes you chase after every single run. “

“I see that they [teams] have plans outside the off stump for me and they keep two fielders on the boundary straight away. But I have come to terms with that. I don’t mind playing run-a-ball for the first 20-25 balls because I know that I can get 40-45 runs in the next 15 balls. Now I believe more in my ability to hit sixes or pick gaps for boundaries in the final overs. When the ball is turning a bit, he [the bowler] will start to bowl back of length and won’t give you anything up because he knows that you can step out and hit him for a six – it was something that Jadeja was doing. That’s when you need to stay on the backfoot.  Otherwise I try to stay as still as possible,” Kohli said.

Kohli has astonishing numbers in ODI cricket and it’s fair to say that he’s the world’s best when it comes to limited overs cricket and certainly has a case for being the best run-chaser of all time. His consistency in the last 4-5 years, in particular, has been astonishing and has played a major role in India’s recent upswing in fortunes in all forms of cricket. His pedigree to rise to the occasion in big moments has been his biggest trump card. He thrives under pressure and always wants to be in the thick of the action. Much has been said about his aggressive nature and the attitude on the field, but it’s right to say that he has certainly toned down and his sportsmanship can never been questioned. He has learnt to channel his aggression in the right direction and it has certainly paid dividends. His maturity has grown leaps and bounds and it was evident in the way he responded to RCB’s IPL Final loss, being extremely humble and gracious.

There is, however, a feeling that he hasn’t quite reached the extraordinary heights in Tests as in other formats. An average close to 45 is excellent, but you have every right to expect more with the ability and temperament he possesses. But then, the average took a bit of a hit when he had a slow start in the initial days of his Test career. Considering that he accepts nothing short being the best, it won’t be long before the average hovers above 50. The high standards he sets himself will certainly enable him to replicate his astonishing numbers in limited overs in Test cricket, as well. He has scored 25 ODI hundreds and 11 Test hundreds and he has a good ten years ahead of him.

Most of his Test hundreds have come outside India and he has an excellent record in all countries except for England and West Indies. He has scored centuries in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka. The only real blemish came during the series in 2014 in England where he had a poor run, making just 103 runs in 5 Tests. When India tour England the next time around, he will be keen to make amends to his poor record in the country.

Being the Test captain of India and a senior player in white-ball cricket, Virat Kohli will realize that he is the most crucial player in his team. His extraordinary limited overs exploits will be replicated in Test cricket and in all probability, he will end up being one of India’s greatest players of all time.


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