Chances are at this point of time, it doesn’t matter whether you’re an Indian cricket fan or not. While all eyes are on the hunt for the next cricketing season of Team India to start, the focal point of discussion, worldwide, is Virat Kohli.
The current team has swiftly undergone from being a fighting bunch of neophytes examining their collective strength across formats into rising as a formidable arsenal powered by the heroes such as the dependable Ajinkya Rahane, the steady Cheteshwar Pujara (Tests), the unorthodox Ravindra Jadeja, the fluid KL Rahul, the stickler for perfection, Murali Vijay and the invincible, Ravichandran Ashwin.
But that said, the king of the kings, the giant among this indefatigable cricketing unit, often known to exercise fist-thumping euphoria over opponents, is a certain Virat Kohli.
Apart from being the new poster boy of cricket, albeit suiting a fire-brand generation that favors T20s over the rhetorical occurrences of Tests, Kohli’s grit, flair and firepower and, the combined rush it brings to the table has appealed even to the purists of the game.
That in Kohli, India have a Virat power that brings unscrupulous tedium to correct weaklings of the Indian side, technical flaws and other shortcomings and doesn’t halt before exacting the limitless from the potential of a young and daring side, makes things bright and luminescent for fans.
Arriving at 2016’s grand stage
If 2014 and 2015 were big stage arrivals of this mercurial batsman, then in 2016’s glorious run, Kohli has stamped his authority on the game. And in the process, exemplified his reign as Team India’s unputdownable leader. In fact, given his successes and the manner in which they’ve come, Kohli has ensured that as far as tests are concerned 2016 has been his infallible year and one highlighting his abilities as a doggedly determined captain.
2016 has been truly the year where cricket has seen some exhilarating upsets and some unprecedented victories. The West Indies have led the tall order, truth be told, surprisingly, by winning the Men’s, Women’s T-20 and the Under-19 50-over World Cup. Sri Lanka, minus Sanga and Mahela blanked Aussies in what was clearly their worst tour to the Buddhist land. Faf Du Plessis’ and not AB’s South Africa have flexed their muscles on Australia, unquestionably, in what was a clear avalanche of mesmerizing performances. While Pakistan upset England at Lords and, for a few hours clinched ICC Test’s numero-uno rank, the action kept clawing toward India’s favor.
And the man responsible for this was captain Virat Kohli
A mere look at Kohli and in turn, his India’s fortunes this year presents emphatic outcomes. They have won at the Caribbean, defeated touring Kiwis, sidelined England and almost, made it through to the ICC World T20s final spot.
In a matter of 10 ODI games, 5 against England and others against the rest of the cricketing sides, Kohli has firmly upped the ante for competition amongst world’s best batsman tag, scoring a prolific 739 runs. This includes, 3 hundreds and 4 fifties and a commanding strike rate of 100, indicating Virat’s ball-by-ball accumulation has nothing less than a towering ODI average of 93. Yes, you read that right! Remember, he is anything but a ‘pinch-hitter’ but boy, he can pinch the opposition into a state of disbelief.
But amidst Kohli’s limited-over euphoria, it is hard to suggest which ODI hundred of 2016 was the best! His unbeaten 154 against the Kiwis at Mohali (coming off just 134) or his 106 versus the Aussies at Canberra at the start of the year. Was Kohli the most complete in his emergence as the butcher who swayed New Zealand’s Tim Southee and Trent Boult or was he better as the aggressive accumulator of runs versus an attack powered by Hazlewood and Starc against Australia?
Nonetheless, Kohli’s 2016 heroics aren’t format limited! His Test performances are mind-boggling
Chastised often for the loopy nature of cricket and made a tad bit ‘boring’ by batsmen of defensive technique, Kohli the Test batsman ensured 2016 was India’s for the taking. He began his checkered journey by brandishing his record against the Windies, striking a thundering 200 at Antigua, at the den of Sir Viv. To the utter dismay of touring Kiwis, Kohli’s bat would wield authoritative domination, which, parts of the world sparing New Zealanders butchery in media, equated his bat to a double-edged sword.
Combining erudition in technique and blisteringly vibrant stroke-play, Virat enthralled fans at Indore courtesy his 211 against the Kiwis. So emphatic was the reception of this knock that he hurled a doppelganger into worldwide attention as fans wanted to be glued to their version of ‘Virat’. But the fanfare didn’t end there.
A staggering collection of runs this year
England would soon run into a hot-headed blade held by captain undaunted who had bigger, far-reaching plans for her Majesty’s princes who would have no answers. His glorious 167 at Vizag in the just concluded series was a humble prelude to another magnificent double to follow. In the process, the likes of Broad went hopeless, Woakes battled inner scares, Moeen Ali crumbled under pressure and Ben could ‘Stoke’ no fuel to curb Kohli’s fire.
Virat reserved his most admired knock of 2016 for Mumbai, the scene for India’s familiar 2011 triumph, a battleground from where his team would emerge victorious, akin to the euphoria earned 4 years back. Kohli’s dominant 235 inspired the likes of Jadeja and Jayant Yadav to strike memorable hundreds. While he registered his 3rd double hundred of the year, he took his 2016 Test runs to 1215, thus becoming the first man since Dravid (2011) to go past thousand runs in a single calendar year. In doing so, Virat has belted test runs at an astonishing strike rate of 75.
This poses an interesting question
You’ll feel a bit intellectually challenged to ask how come Kohli found so many run-scoring opportunities given that, at the other end was a certain R. Ashwin clobbering best batting attacks, depleting oppositions’ run stacks? It’s pretty simple: making it count from the word go, most of Kohli’s illustrious inking’ on cricket’s expansive record-books have come with him collecting as many from the star of his inning. Of Kohli’s enormously impressive tons, 2 have come against the English in the first inning, as have his double hundreds against New Zealand and West Indies, the latter being his first double ton in the Caribbean or versus the Windies.
That Kohli faced the same bowlers and brutally assaulted them, including Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad, Josh Hazlewood, that the other’s struggled against at some point in 2016, given that Australians squared off versus Proteans on two occasions and lost and Kiwis were nearly mauled by the Aussies finally, speaks of Virat’s unquestionable powers of concentration.
Kohli’s 2016 message
That he is around and, inarguably for long will hurt his opponents more than it can inspire India to fly to greater heights. Kohli has been a master of balancing the captaincy role with his leadership with the willow, both being extraordinary lessons dispensed at the expanse of a collective suffering of no pushovers; Australia, New Zealand and England, in that order. Importantly, in Kohli, India have a top cat who accepts challenges with glee and warrants quick anticipation and reaction to pressure or crisis moves guys like Jadeja, Pujara, Rahane and now, KL Rahul and Karun Nair in awe. May the worst fears of India’s critics be realized in times to come. For Kohli is very young, and not even toward his peak.