Only a few days ago after Rohit Sharma’s record score, I chatted with a fellow cricket enthusiast telling him how only a Kohli century remained for India to have a perfect 10/10 series. After Sri Lanka pushed to a competitive score of 286 on back of captain Angelo Mathews’ maiden ODI century, he told me that this was the perfect situation for Kohli. India chasing, tricky score, others falling around him, law of averages.
No ODI series goes by without Kohli announcing himself. Even in the 4 matches against the Windies, Kohli returned to form, but with a rare first innings century.
The fact that we could routinely predict that Kohli would tear into an attack while chasing a target is remarkable. It is a far cry from a decade ago when most would only look towards the lone figure of Tendulkar during a chase, and even he wasn’t successful on such a relentlessly consistent basis.
A Virat special is taken for granted in certain situations, especially when the tough gets going. He is perhaps the Graeme Smith of ODI cricket a fourth innings specialist in his time—and the top-order Michael Bevan of the current era. Bevan was a finisher, Kohli is a target-buster. Bevan was unique for his time, and his consistency was staggering, and Kohli’s eyes seem to light up the same way while chasing a score.
The added responsibility of captaining the side has had no detrimental effects on his batting. He scored a couple of half centuries but failed to finish a match, until he single-handedly pulled India home in the final ODI at Ranchi. His 139 is arguably the most valuable innings of the series, despite it being a dead rubber game, considering how precarious the match situation was.
He came in after two early wickets, looked set from the word GO, and played on another level while others flayed and failed around him. The way he bulldozed the bowlers towards the end, swatting sixes at will almost showed that he was disgusted with his team and had had enough of their monkey business.
He is all of 26 now, has 21 ODI hundreds, 14 of them while successfully chasing a score. To put things into perspective, he is already second on the all-time chasing list, behind Tendulkar’s 18—which he can shatter in less than a year. His average is above 50, and perhaps the only series he has failed in so far has been in England. He even scored well in South Africa and New Zealand when others struggled, so he can’t be dismissed as a home specialist either. His confidence has returned, and while his technique remains a bit flawed, he has discovered the kind of conditions that respond to him.
He is also India’s only captain (already) to have recorded two 5-0 whitewashes in his tenure, and he isn’t even first-choice yet. Moreover, he will captain India for the first time in Tests at Brisbane, setting the stage for Dhoni to gradually fade himself out from the leadership scenario.
More than anything, Kohli has instilled in Indian fans a sense of safety and belief when put in intimidating second-innings chases—a feeling one could never ever relate to, even while Tendulkar was at his peak.