It may be sacrilegious to say this, to Sachin Tendulkar fans, but Virat Kohli could turn out to be the greatest batsman who ever took guard. In terms of figures and performances, scoring runs, and helping win matches, it has to be him. Sachin retired after crossing 40 years of age. Kohli is only 27. As fit as he is, he might go on to play till he reaches 42, giving him 15 more years to amass runs and records.
Virat Kohli has taken 161 innings to reach 24 centuries, outstripping Tendulkar’s feat of reaching the milestone in 219 innings. The Indian captain is the only batsman in the world capable of reaching the 100 centuries mark, and bettering it. He could even make 50,000 runs across all formats by the time he calls it a day.
Sunday’s breathtaking chase was just another step towards getting there. India is in the semi-finals only because of Virat Kohli. The others were a sorry self of their much-vaunted reputations. Chasing 161, the hosts required a daunting 39 runs to win when the 18th over of the Indian innings began. 13 an over, it couldn’t have been more challenging.
But Virat Kohli is not considered to be the best chaser in the game for nothing. He went about it almost dismissively, reducing Australians to an average bowling and fielding unit. They cowered and finally surrendered after Kohli hit seven boundaries – 4,4,6,4,4,4,4 – in the next 12 balls. MS Dhoni, almost as if it is mandatory for him, finished the game with the winning shot.
Like Sachin, unfortunately, Virat Kohli is turning out to be the only match-winner in the team, someone on whom we are over-reliant because there is nobody else to depend on. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma gobbled up the early overs without making much impact and perished playing stupid shots.
Dhawan, particularly, has been given the longest rope in living memory. Ajinkya Rahane is a far better player, both in terms of skill and shot-playing ability. Why he is cooling his heels in the dug-out is beyond comprehension.
Newly-married Suresh Raina is inventing careless ways to get out. Manish Pandey is a better bet. Yuvraj Singh has fought a much bigger battle. He conquered cancer. On field, though, he appears to be losing it. Ever since his return to cricket, he is not even half the player he once was. It could be age, could be the ongoing treatment, I don’t know, but he no longer instills faith. And that’s a tragedy, because he was destined for greater things.
Dhoni comes with only one purpose these days. To come out and go berserk, a tactic that can’t be helped because of the late order he comes in. Coming six or seven down hardly leaves any room for settling down, and when you are trying to smash from the word “go”, you are more likely to fail.
Kohli has played back-to-back winning knocks. He’s churning out incredible knocks with such regularity that it has become almost impossible to get him out, at least early on. But drawing comparison with the great man Sachin should now end. Let Kohli be Kohli. He is doing a great job.
Also, there are two more games left before claiming the World T20 trophy. India play West Indies in the semis. If Chris Gayle clicks, India will face a much larger total, perhaps even in excess of 200. If that happens, India will need more than Kohli to deliver. A few changes in the top order will help. Getting Rahane in place of Dhawan could be the first move.