Chennai: Former England skipper Mike Atherton said the most influential figure in the cricket world is India skipper Virat Kohli. In his column for The Times, Atherton said it has been fascinating to watch Kohli up close and get a sense of the cricketer who is driving India forward.
“If the question were to be asked of world cricket, there would be little room for debate: the most influential figure in the game is Virat Kohli, India's captain and leading contender for the best allround batsman in the world today.
"He is certainly the most in-form, as England have found to their cost, given that he has held together India's batting in the first three Tests,” wrote Atherton.
Kohli has been in rousing form in the ongoing England Test series and he has scored 405 runs at 101.25. According to Atherton, Kohli is ubiquitous just as Sachin Tendulkar was a generation ago.
“But with the kind of reach through social media that did not exist when Tendulkar was in his prime. If Kohli is the most sought-after endorsement, bats at No 4 and lost his mentor father at a youngish age (Kohli was 18 when his father died; Tendulkar was 26), then that is where the similarities with the Little Master end,” Atherton pointed out.
“In Kohli, India have a cricketer for the 21st century: fit, driven, obsessive, social media savvy, living the reality of the collusion of cricket and celebrity and at home in three formats. A generation ago, they wanted to be like Tendulkar. Not any more,” he added.
Kohli has more than 13 million followers on Twitter; 9 million on Instagram and his Facebook likes total an astonishing 32 million. He is a brand ambassador for 17 blue chip companies, endorsements alone that are worth $34 million annually.
Atherton said Kohli’s influence is likely to be profound on the type of Indian cricketer to come. “And therefore on the nature of cricket that India will play in future. Already in this series, you sense these developments: India’s seamers have bowled more quickly and aggressively than England’s and the ground fielding has been just as intense, areas where traditionally England might have expected an edge,” he said.
Kohli, Atherton wrote, is among the rare group who can dominate across all formats, but without a noticeable step-change in method. “Joe Root is among that number too. Both enjoy a purity of technique allied to a wide range of strokeplay.
"If England are to get back into the series in Mumbai (the fourth Test starts on Thursday), then they will have to find a way of dismissing him cheaply.”
The Englishman was also all praise for Kohli’s fielding skills. “Plenty of former India players were good catchers — Rahul Dravid, for example, was an excellent slip fielder — but none that I have seen has been as dynamic in the field as Kohli.
His closest rival in England colours is Stokes: towards the end of the game in Mohali, when defeat had become inevitable, Stokes chased a ball to the boundary as though his life depended on it,” he said....