For the third instalment of my look at Test cricket’s greatest young batsman, I turn my attention to the Indian stroke-maker Virat Kohli.
At just 26 years of age, Kohli’s CV is already a source of jealousy for much more experienced players. He has racked up nearly 150 ODI appearances, including 21 centuries, to go with his newly flourishing Test career. He will surely, with time, become the highest ODI century maker of all time, and perhaps the highest ODI run scorer ever.
However, here I am going to focus on the Test career of the new Indian skipper. Let’s start with his recent promotion. Kohli is now the leader of his country in the red ball game, this a remarkable turnaround for a player, who has at times, appeared ill at ease with the demands of the longer format.
Kohli endured a nightmare tour of England during last summer, averaging a pathetic 13.4 over 10 innings, and his top score of 39 was an abysmal return for a player with his skill and reputation. It is this reputation, mostly gained in the shorter formats in home conditions, that has rocketed Kohli to ‘Indian batting God’ status.
Woe betide anyone who claims that Kohli is not the greatest batsman on earth, for they’ll have vast swathes of the Indian cricket community to answer to. At first glance, it does appear that when Sachin Tendulkar walked off into the Mumbai sunset, Indian fans were desperate for a new poster boy. MS Dhoni has taken some of the heat off of Kohli in recent times, and has, for all his numerous captaincy faults, defended his young star batsman with fierce loyalty and deflected the attention away from him.
With Dhoni now hanging up his gloves to pursue a career as India’s most suave greying gentlemen, Kohli has had to step up to the mark. The big question has been, how will he react?
Not a stranger to strops and petulant fits, Kohli sometimes encapsulates all that is wrong with the modern game. Thankfully he so often embodies all that is right with the modern game too. His recent form in Australia has been as spectacular as it has been unexpected.
He has rattled his way along to four centuries and scored 692 runs in the process. In unfamiliar conditions and against one of the best attacks in the world, Kohli cut, drove and pulled his way into the record books – making the most runs by an Indian in a Test series in Australia. While Kohli’s personality can sometimes appear abrasive in the outfield, he clearly rises to the extra responsibility. Becoming the first batsman to make three centuries in his first three innings as captain.
There appear to be no obvious flaws in Kohli’s technique, he was found out in England during the summer, but that was more down to lack of form than anything technical. He will, I have no doubt, return to England in the future and score centuries galore.
It may well be ODI cricket where Kohli made his name, and for now, that may be where his batting talents are best deployed. But, in time, he will become one of the all time Test batting greats. He is already well on the way to being adored within India – being seen as the prince to Tendulkar’s king.
Kohli embodies a new generation of Indian players – and cricketers in general. He is loud, brash, frustrating and often arrogant. But boy can he play!