PARTAB RAMCHAND | 6 FEBRUARY, 2018
Kohli On Course to Breaking Tendulkar’s Records
Verily the sky is the limit for Kohli
There is just no stopping Virat Kohli. As a captain he may have his limitations as the recent Test series against South Africa illustrated. But as a batsman he is in a league of his own even in an intensively competitive field.
There are a number of outstanding batsmen in the contemporary game and the names of Steve Smith, Joe Root and Kane Williamson immediately roll off the tongue when speaking of this category. But placed across all three formats the 29-year-old Indian stands on the pedestal all alone. Anyone who averages fifty plus in each of the three formats has to be a very special talent and that is what Kohli is.
The manner in which he has breaking records left, right and centre has already triggered off discussions as to whether Sachin Tendulkar’s figures are really insurmountable. When he retired the Indian maestro left a legacy of run scoring feats that looked to be well beyond the reach of any contemporary batsman.
They would stand the test of time for an extended period was the general feeling and indeed when one examined the figures – 15,921 runs in Tests, 18,426 runs in ODIs, 51 hundreds in Tests, 49 in ODIs besides a host of minor records – it seemed Mission Impossible for any future generation to even equal let alone surpass these marks.
And yet we have someone as cautious in his predictions as Sunil Gavaskar sticking his neck out a while ago in his newspaper column and saying that by the time Kohli finishes playing the game most batting records would be his. Even those who used to believe that Tendulkar’s records were unsurpassable are now veering around to the opinion that if there is one batsman who genuinely threatens these figures it is Kohli given his prodigious gifts, a driving ambition to be the best in the business, an insatiable appetite for runs and big scores and also because he has age on his side. Yes, it can be stated quite categorically - Tendulkar’s records are no longer safe.
On his way to becoming the quickest to reach this mark or the youngest to reach that mark putting in the shade some of the greatest names in the history of the game Kohli has already ran up an awesome record. For example a benchmark for a batsman to be hailed as truly great is to average a hundred every four Tests. But Kohli averages a hundred every three Tests – 21 in 66 games. Notching up six double hundreds – one such landmark every 11 Tests – is something beyond the reach of any batsman save the greatest of them all Don Bradman.
It is the same with ODIs. No one in the history of the limited overs game who has played so many innings – 196 to be precise – and notched up over 9000 runs has an average as high as 56. What’s more his tally of 33 hundreds is already second to Tendulkar’s record of 49. The way he is going that is probably going to be the first of Tendulkar’s record to go overboard.
Perhaps even more remarkable is his performance in cricket’s newest and shortest format. It is a format that calls for very quick scoring marked by big hits which means the risk factor is high. Moreover the restricted number of overs means that knocks are generally explosive and entertaining but short on the duration factor.
Astonishingly Kohli averages almost 53 in T-20 internationals to go along with a highly impressive strike rate of nearly 138. These figures are clearly in the mind boggling and eye rubbing variety. To put things in proper perspective two of the biggest names associated with T--20 cricket Brendon McCullum and Chris Gayle average 35 with roughly the same strike rate.
Mesmerizing as these statistics are what stands out is Kohli’s temperament. He relishes a challenge and is least overawed by a bowler’s reputation or the precarious position his side is in. He plays his strokes freely – even with gay abandon – befitting someone who is confidence personified. His hitting is bold and vigorous but he also plays cultured strokes all round the wicket even as his defence is secure which makes him arguably the toughest batsman to bowl to in world cricket today. .
Contrary to some other leading batsmen who get bogged down by the responsibilities of captaincy Kohli in fact has thrived on it. Since he has taken over the leadership his average has soared and the runs, centuries and double centuries have been notched up at an astonishing rate. He is at the peak of his game right now but is always seeking out higher peaks to conquer. There is every reason to believe that his best still lies ahead which is good news for the Indian camp and bad news for opponents.
Verily the sky is the limit for Kohli. Perhaps the greatest tribute to him is that old timers who are biased towards their own generation and always speak of how ``great’’ former cricketers were as compared to the ``puny’’ moderns are in agreement that Kohli is one who with the passage of time will join the ranks of the all-time greats.