A friend, and fellow cricket lover, diverted my attention to a statistic, which is remarkable. When India skipper Virat Kohli scored 123 runs in a losing cause in the third ODI against Australia at Ranchi, his tally of tons in that format reached 41 in 224 ODIs.
This knock, after scoring 44 and 116 at Hyderabad and Nagpur in the first two ODIs respectively, makes one wonder what adjectives one can attribute to this run machine. My friend also reminded me of the fact that Kohli, today, averages 50 plus in all three formats of the game, Tests, ODIs and T20 — an astounding achievement.
I first met Kohli when he was leading the India Under-19 squad before their semi-final against New Zealand at the sylvan Kinrara Oval in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2008. The BCCI had just announced the formation of the IPL and the entire cricket community was thrown into a tizzy, considering the kind of money that would be on offer. The Under-19 squad had two players who were on the radar of the IPL talent spotters (though none was at the Kinrara Oval then) — Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja.
As an itinerant journalist, working for an international radio service, I was keen to understand the mindset of the two potential India prospects and was appalled when Kohli refused to be interviewed citing lack of time.
It wasn’t a polite ‘no’ but a brash response that put one completely on the back foot. It showed that the Delhi lad who had just made his Ranji Trophy debut had a badass attitude.
I finally spoke to him, thanks to intervention by BCCI officials who were accompanying the team, and the take home of that interaction were two words that stood out — focus and confidence.
From 2008 to date, Kohli has come a long way and what we see today is a mature individual who is taking the school of Indian batsmanship to a different, much higher level.
His approach to his batting and the game as captain is very different from two earlier batting legends who graced Indian cricket: Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar. The first instilled pride in a team that more often than not, collapsed (batting wise) at the mere sight of international players of repute while the second created an empire of runs, demolishing almost all records in a long and distinguished career.
The trio, each completely different in batting styles and approach while at the crease, have one thing in common: Total focus towards achieving their goal. Having watched Gavaskar bat from his university days till the time he retired and Tendulkar at the comely age of 14, playing for my club, the Cricket Club of India, one can safely state that they never lost sight of their target at all stages of their glorious careers.
The Kohli I encountered at Kuala Lumpur in 2008 is different and not the one we watch today. The brusque kid from west Delhi has morphed into a likeable person representing a country that is known for genteelness. His performances, thus far, make him a prime candidate to achieve a Bradmanesque status. He has crossed all the last frontiers of his batting ability in the fast, seaming pitches of England, South Africa and Australia. The Kohli ‘K’arisma will (hopefully) find it’s peak when he lifts the International Cricket Council World Cup a few months from now.