Mumbai: “The little man has hit the big fella for six! He's half his size, what a player!” said the late Tony Greig witnessing Sachin Tendulkar’s assault on Tom Moody during the “sandstorm” century against Australia in Sharjah (1998). After 18 years, the cricket world saw the emergence of another mathematician. The analogous approach made Sunil Gavaskar say: “Wow, wow, wow!”
Had Greig been alive, he probably would have coined another memorable line for Virat Kohli.
The 27-year-old’s unbeaten 82 off 51 balls against Australia in the Group 2, Super 10 tie of ICC World Twenty20 is almost a replica of Tendulkar’s 143 off 131 against the same opponents in Sharjah during the virtual semifinal of the Cola Cola Cup.
Kohli is one of those cricketers who solves quadratic equations of cricket in his mind while the willow finds the gap. He knows his formulas, he doesn’t need a calculator and his brain is no short of a navigator – it manages to find the boundary no matter where the fielders are.
Tendulkar’s Herculean effort helped India qualify for the final of the triangular series back in the day. Kohli single-handedly steered the team to the semifinal of the T20 magnum opus.
Kohli is more of gaps and grammar; Tendulkar symbolised art and romance coupled with technique. But both the cricketers have been Australia’s nemesis. Such was Tendulkar’s intensity with the bat that it led to a sandstorm – a rare instance in the history of international cricket.
India had two targets – 285 to win and 254 to qualify on a better run-rate than New Zealand – the other contender.
India lost that storm-truncated match but made a place in the final where Tendulkar slammed yet another ton (134 off 131 balls). The confident approach saw them get better of the mighty Australians to lift the trophy.
If Tendulkar sliced, pulled and drove the likes of Damien Fleming, Michael Kasprowicz and Steve Waugh – Kohli took on James Faulkner and Nathan Coulter-Nile.
On many occasions, the Delhi boy looked like a shadow of the Master Blaster. When he drove Coulter-Nile through covers in between the fielders, it had glimpses of a 25-year-old Tendulkar dishing out the same treatment to Moody.
If Tendulkar looked possessed that day, Kohli appeared like a serial killer out on a moonlit night to search for his victims.
The veteran had whacked the first ball off Kasprowicz for a six. Similarly, Kohli – who likes dealing in fours – sent Glenn Maxwell on a leather hunt early on.
Kohli is the modern day player. He knows his Tests as well as T20, performs for Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL when required.
It is unfair to compare cricketers from two different generations. But if an Adam Zampa can remind one of Shane Warne, Mohammad Amir of Wasim Akram, why can Kohli not take us back to the good old days of “Sachin! Sachin!”?
The master will be proud to hear “Kohli! Kohli!” from the stands like he did at Eden Gardens during the ICC World Twenty20 match against Pakistan.