Virat Kohli is quickly becoming the hottest property in world cricket. With the Indian batting pantheon slowly retiring and younger blood not setting the world alight, Rohan Sharma ponders just how reliant India are on their talisman.
When Kohli first entered the fray he was seen as a rabble-rouser, an individual undoubtedly cocksure about his ability and promise. He graduated into the ODI team with an U-19 World Cup title under his belt and expectations alight. From achieving at an early age what would have been the pinnacle for any young cricketer, it would have been devilishly easy for him to ride on the wave and eke out a comfortable living in first-class cricket.
But Virat Kohli had grander plans, and slowly began to notch up some considerable performances. His consistency, which has been shaped by a remarkable run of form since 2010, has been instrumental in sky-rocketing his brand and importance within the team. During the recently concluded World Twenty20, a viewer poll question was posed asking whether India over-relied on Virat Kohli in limited overs games. An overwhelming 67% majority voted in the affirmative.
Such confirmation by the fans highlights just how vital a cog he has become to the efficacy of the team. With the retirements of the old guard the pressure on Kohli has intensified, especially with the consistency he has displayed of late. His conversion rate is extraordinary for someone who has played less than a 100 ODIs. Already in 90 matches he has managed to compile 13 centuries, no mean feat. It is no wonder he has become the face of Indian cricket, ably demonstrated by the number of commercial endorsements he has managed to pick up in such a short amount of time.
But what is it about Kohli’s method that has allowed him such sustained success on the international scene? One can certainly infer a lot from how he goes about approaching each innings. There is an unswerving swagger as he saunters to the crease, the fierceness of purpose apparent in his eyes. The first few balls he uses to allow him time to settle in and become acquainted with the conditions. As the bowler delivers, Kohli steps down the pitch with a positive forward movement as he meets the ball. The intent in the stroke is emblematic and showcases the importance of confidence at the crease. This approach is refreshing compared to the typical cricketer who, at the start of an innings, looks to play a little more circumspectly.
Virat emanates a semblance of stability while he is at the crease. His arrival to the fold has provided the middle order with the much needed steel that was lacking in the team. Kohli’s success has also allowed the think-tank to continue to experiment with viable middle order options. India’s continual gamble on the proficiently talented Rohit Sharma would never have been so well afforded without Kohli making runs at the other end. This is crucial as India continues to transition into a younger outfit for the future.
Kohli’s staggering rise can prove both a blessing and a curse as time will tell if can continue to match the deeds he has performed to date? While his attitude can no longer be questioned, there will come a point, as in all international careers, where the runs begin to dry. This will be Kohli’s true test as he continues to make a case for himself within the team. Coupled with the expectations that have begun to resonate every time he walks out, Virat will have to continue to sidestep the distractions and continue to follow the process that has given him so much success and adulation. The next few years should be telling as to whether he is merely very good or if he can indeed be listed amongst the pantheon of cricketing greats.
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