Even as the results have changed in all the three games of the ODI series against Windies so far, there has been one constant – a Kohli century. © AFP
In his book ‘How Sachin Destroyed My Life…‘, Vikram Sathaye had written: “Some of my colleagues had made it a habit of taking an anti-Sachin (Tendulkar) stand based on his 2nd innings average. These people were important in their own way in society because if not for them, conversations on cricket would not have lasted more than 30 seconds.”
Virat Kohli could’ve similarly divided opinions too, if not for his recent success in whites in England. The 593 runs at 59.30 has left very little room to debate the greatness of his batting. With Steve Smith serving a ban, and AB de Villiers – the only batsman to have had a better average and strike rate since Kohli’s debut – having retired recently, currently, there is no one to challenge him in the all-weather batsmen contest.
Even as the results have changed in all the three games of the ODI series against Windies so far, there has been one constant – a Kohli century.
He has unlocked a level of batting, where the new floor is secluded. Not a friend or a foe from his generation to spar with. For any company, he’ll have to transcend eras, and then maybe he’ll find a Vivian Richards with a cigar in hand and a Sachin Tendulkar with a glass of Boost, to share his vegan meal with.
Because the crowded party is at the bottom, or maybe mid-way somewhere – where the likes of Joe Root and Kane Williamson find themselves.
The monotonous process of his success has overawed the magnitude of it. Beauty is in imperfection, they say; and imperfection is for art. But art requires a setting – the might of the opposition, the hurdles that seem difficult to overcome. Kohli, however, has been functioning like a machine. The background is becoming irrelevant by the day. He is scoring runs on demand, irrespective of all the external factors.
For the bowlers too it can get dicey. In the kind of form he is in, it will become difficult to set him up. And when plans fail and runs are being scored freely, it doesn’t take much to slip into a mindset where they are looking to take a wicket off every ball. Ashley Nurse, who has been at the receiving end of Kohli’s juggernaut this series, however, believes that the bowlers cannot afford to shift away from their plans. “Everyone knows he’s a very good player, probably the best player in the world at the moment… don’t try to play his game because if you play his game, he’s going to beat you all the time.”
Coming in to the Pune ODI, he had already crunched two centuries in the first two games of the series. In fact, in the five innings at home before the game, Pune was the only venue where he had failed to notch up a ton. That obscure statistic was rectified too, as he showed uncannily similar approach like the previous two games, kept his shot making clean, well-placed and very precise to notch up his 38th ODI century.
For a change, he couldn’t help wipe off the chase, but yet again, his batting stood out as he scored 107 of India’s 240. He chose not to speak much about his batting after the defeat – toeing his often-repeated lines of ‘it doesn’t matter how much I score if the team doesn’t win’.
India’s defeat in Pune is a shift from the ‘Kohli century in chase, India victory’ narrative. But does it divide opinions? Not quite.