I do not usually like quoting statistics and records broken while writing about a match, but the2nd ODI between India and Australia at Jaipur is pushing me to the dark side.
As it is, at this moment in Indian cricket, there are plenty of numbers being spouted with varying degrees of emotional quivering voices. A giant is retiring, and with it, plenty of records are expected to proudly belong to this country for years to come.
Virat Kohli will certainly make sure that remains the case.
On Tendulkar’s 25th birthday in 1998, he changed the face of ODI batting forever. The Desert storm in Sharjah was much more than a mere physical phenomenon, and the ‘little master’ tag was to stick with him for good. The difference between the 25 year old Tendulkar back then and the 24-something Kohli right now is that they belong to different Indian teams, eons apart.
16 ODI centuries before the age of 25 and 4500 runs means that Kohli is well on his way to shattering his idol’s records a decade down the line. Hell, he could cross 50 of them at the rate he’s going. But it really isn’t about these records, is it?
Not for the first time, the ‘young’ Delhi batsman- who really doesn’t seem that young anymore, given his penchant for stunning attacks- chased down an improbable score with a shocking display of counter attacking batting. This time, he was joined by the golden boy of 2013 Shikhar Dhawan, and the enigma of Indian cricket Rohit Sharma- to complete what was the single most shocking ODI chase in history after the freak 434 game back in 2006. What is not surprising is that Australia has been on the receiving end of plenty of Tendulkar as well as Kohli second innings centuries- the true ODI greats step up against top bowling attacks, that is what sets them apart from their contemporaries. The mantle has not only been passed but surpassed by Kohli, with many touting him as not the ‘next big thing’, but the ‘biggest thing ever’ to happen to Indian limited overs cricket.
This is after Tendulkar’s 460-odd ODIs and Yuvraj’s 270 innings, as well as Dhoni’s 200-odd innings. Kohli is nowhere close to them as far as experience is concerned, he was only a greenhorn in the 2011 World Cup, not even close to the mainstay of the batting order.
12 ODI centuries later- that includes a Brisbane masterclass, a Dhaka masterpiece and now a Jaipur storm- Kohli has now stamped his authority in a once-crowded middle order the way Pujara has taken the test line-up by storm. They are run machines of different kinds, with Kohli maturing faster than any of his contemporaries- including the late bloomers like Dhawan and Sharma.
Australia scored 359-5, the same total that many Indian fans will remember forever. It was the 2003 WC Final onslaught by Ponting that will remain etched in the memories of many, a total of 359 before the days of T20 and IPL.
The bowling attack consisting of Ishant, Vinay and Ashwin were beyond redemption with their half trackers and slow full tosses, but that is a subject for another article.
The openers Dhawan and Rohit walked out. The rest, as they said, was history.
1 wicket later, India had chased down the mammoth total with 7 overs to go. This was not a narrow win, it was a mauling. A brutal assault on one of the best ODI attacks going around.
At times like these, you wonder if Tendulkar is truly being selfless and smaller than the game by taking 2 more Test matches against mediocre opposition on home pitches to retire. You could say he was waiting for Rohit to hit the bigtime, to justify the faith so many selectors have shown in him. But Tendulkar will now come across as a villain keeping this bright in-form batsman out of Test Cricket for a while longer, not letting him find his bearings before South Africa. Rohit was supposed to play at Nagpur in 2009, a test debut that would have definitely led to a different career. But he was injured on the morning of the test match, and now an ageing legend is keeping him out only on reputation. Well, as the BCCI have shown, even they cannot do anything about Tendulkar anymore.
Rohit, on his part, is doing all he can to ensure that the no. 4 spot is his when he wears whites. A pathbreaking 143* against Australia at Jaipur in a difficult chase will ensure that he remains hungry for runs, an innings that could very well signal the beginning of a whirlwind batting career that could resemble more of a Yuvraj than a Sachin or a Dravid.
On Wednesday, he was the anchor he had worked so hard to become. He started edgy, but guided the aggression of Dhawan and Kohli with utmost grace- caressing the ball to all parts of the ground. Make no mistake, Rohit is the most aggressive batsman in Indian cricket, and the way he has tempered his ODI batting to suit his new position must be applauded. He is a natural stroke maker, but has had to fit into a new role- not unlike Dravid had once done in his ODI career.
The One is not slowing down anytime soon. The belligerence and guts he shows everytime he faces a top attack is remnant of the great Viv and Matthew Hayden. He charges down the pitch to every second ball, refusing to let bowlers settle- and more importantly, he is a big match player. He is playing like a man who believes that he has missed out a majority of his ‘purple’ years to bad temperament and form, and is keen to make up for lost time. He is 27, and he is only beginning his career. The days of Sehwag are long gone, or so it seems.
The fastest ever ODI ton by an Indian came in a game that, really, only Kohli could have turned. His confidence is almost ridiculous, and he even guided Sharma to his century by absorbing the big-hitting pressure. All one can say is that, though not as visually striking as a Tendulkar or a Laxman or a Sharma, Kohli combines all their best attributes and more than makes up with his appetite for big scores.
He is easily the best limited overs batsman in the world. He is only 24, but he is not a ‘young’ batsman anymore.
This is no more the ‘young’ brigade either. They are here to stay.