The stately progress of Virat Kohli!

The key for me is that Virat has matured so much, on and off the field. When he was a youngster, talented but unpolished and pumping with emotion, he was prone to making mistakes. But he has become more disciplined in his approach and now plays with a great deal of intelligence. He understands his game now and is aware of his strengths and weaknesses.

Virat Kohli with Sachin Tendulkar. According to Mahela Jayawardene it is not fair to compare Kohli and Tendulkar and hopes that in course of time Kohli will leave his own legacy.   -  PTI

The recent World Twenty20 would have created disappointment in India. The Indian team qualified for the semifinals, which is a great achievement for any squad in an ICC event, but expectations were so high that for some the campaign may have been deemed a failure.



The one player, though, who certainly was not a failure was Virat Kohli — he was outstanding. Indeed, during the past year he has emerged as unquestionably the best and most complete batsman in India.

In truth, had Kohli not been so outstanding then India’s campaign would have been a failure. He held the team together with his consistent brilliance, covering up the fact that several of his top-order colleagues were struggling for form. You can’t win major tournaments without a strong all-round team performance, but Kohli was so exceptional he nearly did it.

 

I remember Virat’s ODI debut nearly eight years ago, back in August 2008 in Dambulla. It was an unmemorable day for him, trapped lbw for 12 after 33 difficult minutes, and for India as they were bowled out for 146. We all knew, though, even at that early stage, that here was a player of great skill and potential. You never know, though, whether talent will get converted into greatness.

Virat is not at his peak yet. I believe he can and will improve, especially in Test cricket, but he has now matured into a marvellous player. I know we love to compare players across generations in Asia, something that I don’t believe you can and should do, but the questions about where he sits compared to the likes of Tendulkar and Dravid are inevitable.

Virat is just finishing his eighth year of international cricket, he is only 27 years old and should play on for at least another eight years. Let’s not measure him against the likes of Sachin who played like a legend for 20 years. Virat is playing in a different era facing different challenges and ultimately he has a chance to leave his own legacy.

What you can compare though are style and technique. In that regard, Virat is quite different from Sachin and Rahul, the two Indian batting giants of the last two decades. They were technically very solid and correct. Kohli, though, has a slight uniqueness or unorthodoxy with his grip, stance and back-swing. It’s his own natural way of batting and it’s a technique that he has started to master.

The key for me is that Virat has matured so much, on and off the field. When he was a youngster, talented but unpolished and pumping with emotion, he was prone to making mistakes. But he has become more disciplined in his approach and now plays with a great deal of intelligence. He understands his game now and is aware of his strengths and weaknesses.

You watch him bat today and one of the most striking elements is his composure. You see that when he is chasing and not just when the going is good and conditions are easy. Virat is able to adapt to tough conditions, the hallmark of great players, as we have seen in recent times in Australia and during the Asia Cup where the pitches were so tough.

His biggest weakness used to be just outside his off-stump where there is a tendency to push towards the ball. Nowadays he tries to play behind the ball much more and that will ensure greater consistency in Test cricket also. Aside from that, he has the complete game, being equally strong against pace and spin and very comfortable off the back or front foot. He can also shift gears easily, using his natural technique to transform from accumulator to power-hitter.

I am really looking forward to how he develops during the coming years. I think playing and succeeding in England, where the slow seaming pitches test his technique the most, is going to be a key challenge that he is looking forward to overcoming.

He will want to cement his place as the world’s best batsman and he has the chance to do that if he continues to keep developing and maturing like he has done in the past two years.