Kohli the new God in Indian cricket

Hyderabad : Indian captain Virat Kohli reacts as he returns after his dismissal during 3rd ODI match against Sri Lanka at Hyderabad on Sunday. PTI Photo by Shailendra Bhojak(PTI11_9_2014_000191A)


By Gaurav Joshi

The summer of 1998 was a heady one. Sachin Tendulkar was established as one of the world’s best batsmen while Australia was on top of everyone’s list as the team to beat.

Tendulkar’s Sharjah blitz against the Aussies was instilled in kids’ mind for years to come. Everyone wanted to be like Sachin and wanted to bat like him. He was Mr India.

You can bet nine year old Virat Kohli must have been one of those kids. Over the next few years, as Virat made his way through the system, he had early setbacks too, losing his father at a young age, being dropped from the Indian team soon after his debut and the constant glare on what he did off the field. He channelled his everything into cricket to rise again, stronger than ever.

The 2010 series against Australia saw him score a much awaited first ODI hundred. India won the series 1-0, if only because it was reduced to a one match shootout because of India’s wayward monsoons. Sure of his place in the XI, his confidence grew and he belted centuries more confidently. The year 2011 saw him grow to dominate the run charts, play a crucial knock in the World Cup final, score hundreds across the world, seal a spot in the Test team and carve a reputation for being the man to go to when chasing.

2012 saw two of his finest knocks, the mauling of Sri Lanka at Hobart and the decimation of Pakistan in Mirpur. Both knocks came when chasing steep totals, under the heavy pressure of having India’s progress riding on the result. Both were tornados which left opposition bowlers utterly destroyed in their wake. The hundreds came quicker and quicker, including another one in the Caribbean as captain which ensured his side reached the final this time. Then Australia came visiting again.

Blame the rules, the pitches and the bowlers but the way Virat batted it seemed nothing would have mattered. Australia’s bowlers may have already been wilting under 176 and 178 run opening partnerships in Jaipur and Nagpur respectively but Virat hit them like ton of bricks, burying them as he smashed the fastest and third fastest ODI hundreds by an Indian, guiding India to two successful 350 plus chases in two weeks. India went on to win the series 3-2.

India had a successful run coming into the ODI series against Australia, including winning the 2013 Champions Trophy and a first ever 5-0 clean sweep abroad under Kohli’s leadership, even if it came against Zimbabwe. The wins featured superb contributions from Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina but Virat had stood out with the total authority of his knocks and sheer volume of runs.

But what Kohli has been able to do in the last six months in the T20 format might never be matched again.   The genius is on track to score a 1000 runs in the IPL this season.   It will be a phenomenal feat and one that might never be beaten for a long time.

Few nights ago, the Eden Gardens in Kolkata failed to be full house despite the fact that MS Dhoni was playing.   Move forward two days and with Virat Kohli turning out for the opposition, each seat in the stadium was packed.

It was the sign of things to come, kids now want to be Kohli, not Sachin, not Dhoni but Kohli. He is the new idol and the face of cricket in India. When we sit back 10 years from now people will realise it was the 2016 IPL that changed the mindset about Kohli.

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