Opinion: Virat Kohli Is The Greatest Cricketer. Period!

 

Virat Kohli after scoring his latest double century against South Africa, Pune
Picture Courtesy: ESPN Cricinfo

In the coming 50 years or so, if the world doesn’t end (hopefully, it won’t), there will be folklores about an Indian cricketer, a cricketer who ruled world cricket in the second decade of this century. He is one of the greatest batsmen of all time. No, wait. He is the greatest of ’em all. He is the biggest endorsement of cricket around the world. He is Virat Kohli.

On 5 November 1988, a Punjabi couple in Delhi had their third child, a boy. They named him Virat, meaning giant or majestic. Little did they know that this boy would one day become the giant cricketer he is now.

From an early age, Virat had a passion for cricket. After having made his List A debut, for Delhi, in 2006, he was selected in India Under-19 squad on the tour of England. In November that year, he started his First-Class career but what garnered everyone’s attention was that, in December, he decided to play even after the death of his father. His innings of 90 proved to be vital, and for that, he was lauded by everyone. In March 2008, he captained India to victory at the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup in Malaysia. Since then, he has never looked back.

Kohli had his first international stint in August 2008 when he was selected for the Sri Lankan tour and had an average series. He made his Test debut in 2011, against West Indies at Sabina Park in Jamaica. His first series was a dull affair as he got only 76 runs in 5 innings. However, after many senior players retired in the first couple of years after his debut, he came to the fore and started making a name for himself. A technically sound batsman, Virat has every shot in the book and more. From the cover drive to backfoot punch, every shot he hits is embellished with a class that makes you sit and watch him play.

In February 2012, in the Commonwealth Bank Tri-Series, he hit a fluent 133 off just 86 balls against Sri Lanka. For staying in the tournament, India needed to win and win big (inside 40 overs, for bonus points). India was set a target of 321. The openers laid a solid platform, and from there, Kohli along with Suresh Raina took India home in 36.4 overs.  Virat Kohli’s 24 runs off a Lasith Malinga over is etched forever in the hearts of cricket fans. Later that year, the same situation presented itself in the Asia Cup. To remain alive in the tournament, India had to win against Pakistan. Chasing 329, Virat played a gem of an innings, 183 of 148, helping India win with 13 deliveries remaining. He has scored many centuries and has played innumerable match-winning knocks, but both aforementioned innings increased his stature from a good to a would-be-great player.

One of the big points in his career was India’s 2014-15 tour Down Under, where along with scoring four test centuries, he was handed the captaincy of the Indian Test team, after the sudden retirement of Mahendra Singh Dhoni from the format. He got the ODI and T20I captaincy in 2017.

Fast forward to 2019, King Kohli, as many call him, is the Number 1 ranked ODI player with 43 centuries. He is one of the most dependable T20I batsmen and did I mention; he is the second-highest run-scorer in the format. He already has 26 Test centuries, not to forget the 7 double centuries and can boast of captaining the best all-format team in the world right now. Do you know what his age is? (Oh, I gave you a clue) It’s 31. Just 31.

There’s a famous quote in a Spider-Man Comic, “With greater power, comes great responsibility”. Virat Kohli has taken this quote way too seriously, one may think, and it shows. His own stats and the team’s overall performance has improved by leaps and bounds under his captaincy.

One measure of his greatness is that after the 230 innings he has played in ODI cricket, the difference between him, (11520 runs) and the next best, (Sourav Ganguly with 9099 runs) is a big 2421. In T20Is, that difference is starker. The 67 times he has batted, his 2450 is 406 runs more than Brendon McCullum’s 2044.

Let’s not even start on his averages. The only format in which he is second to anyone is the longest version of the game. Although his record in Tests is nothing short of great, it is overshadowed by the wizardry of Steve Smith.

As fantastic as his record might be, he isn’t outside the boundaries of criticism. People sometimes criticise him for not scoring big in important matches, but then one needs to understand that cricket is not a one-man show. People sometimes criticise him for his display of aggression on the field, but then one needs to understand that when you’re Virat Kohli, you keep churning out runs, and back your aggression with your performance.

Cricket has seen a number of superstars over its more than 100 years of history, but with the ease with which he goes around scoring centuries and creating records, Virat Kohli is unparalleled.

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