Kohli, following in the footsteps of the Master?

On the occasion of Sachin Tendulkar's birthday, Virat Kohli built an innings of such mastery it was hard not to draw comparisons with the retired legend.

Virat Kohli consistently draws awe from observers to a degree that reminds one of Sachin Tendulkar.   -  PTI

Turn back the clock to April 15, 2011. Less than a fortnight after Sachin Tendulkar had ticked off, possibly, the most important box on his résumé, he regaled the Wankhede faithful with his maiden hundred in Twenty20 cricket. And, not for the first time, a Tendulkar special had >ended in a losing cause .

Fast-forward to April 24, 2016. Virat Kohli, who is being compared to Tendulkar on a daily basis, began his Sunday by wishing his role model a happy 43rd on Twitter. Hours later, he celebrated the master’s birthday with an imperious century before his bowlers let him down.

The eerie similarities don’t end there.

Tendulkar’s hundred came against a new franchise (Kochi Tuskers Kerala). So did Kohli’s (Gujarat Lions). Both teams donned kitschy orange outfits. Both had Brendon McCullum in the mix.

Kohli, whose returns lately are nothing but Bradman-esque, made a mockery of the Gujarat attack. On many occasions, he even rendered the fielders motionless. Like when he smashed Pravin Tambe’s legspin for consecutive fours through the cover region. Nobody moved. Or, for that matter, when he caressed left-arm spinner Shadab Jakati by rocking on the back-foot and punching the ball through the same area.

For the next few overs, though, Kohli played like a mere mortal. A round of cramps and a sprained ankle led to the slowdown. But, thanks to his supreme fitness, “the other muscles took over”. These were Kohli’s words.

Shifting gears

And, when they actually did, he was on 50 — his fourth in five outings — off 40 balls. With six overs to go, and the scoreboard reading an underwhelming 104 for two, Kohli shifted gears as quickly as someone manning a Bugatti. He then sliced a widish yorker from Dwayne Bravo for four before unleashing that deadly flick off a Praveen Kumar delivery to beat McCullum at long-on.

When Bravo set out to bowl the final over, Kohli was on 85. A full toss on leg stump fetched him just a single. He was frantically gesticulating at K. L. Rahul, insisting that he had called for a double. Rahul smirked before conveying that he hadn’t heard his partner. He was right. It was a packed house.

Rahul did the smart thing by taking a single off the second. Kohli, who was in pain all over again, missed the third. A mighty swing of the arms got him the best possible result on the fourth. An erratic Bravo then bowled a wide. Kohli smashed the ensuing extra delivery straight down the ground. The cheeky Bravo then slipped in another wide yorker, which Kohli duly guided over point and third man.

And, just like that, he raced away from 50 to 100 in a matter of 23 balls. Out came the helmet and that wide grin we are so used to seeing now. Not for the first time, it took us back to the Tendulkar era. The good thing, though, is that the Kohli eon has only begun.

'Difficult to miss out on a win' (PTI adds)

Asked if he was feeling happy to notch up his maiden IPL as well as T20 hundred, Kohli said, “I am not really feeling good right now. Would have liked to cross the line on the right side of the result. Missed a coupled of hundreds before. Personal performances are good, but not having a win is difficult.

“Not at any stage was I thinking about a hundred. Just looking for 170. The opportunity came in the end,” said Kohli after the match.

Kohli gave an update on swashbuckling West Indian batsman Chris Gayle who has gone home to be by the side of his wife and their new-born daughter. “(Gayle) should be back in the next game. Batting is not a concern. We are planning a lot of things (with the ball),” said Kohli who was adjudged man of the match for his 100 not out.

“We want to pull our socks up. Even today, it was slow pitch, we shouldn’t have given so many balls close to the batsman that he could hit. Should have kept it away from his reach,” he added.

Earlier at the innings break, Kohli said he was not expecting himself to hit a hundred. “Just wanted to hit good areas. Even against Delhi, I was 75 at the time I was out. Coach Daniel Vettori told me hundred was there. Run out on 99 once. Never really thought about it today though. Just concentrated on hitting the gap,” he said.

Talking about a minor ankle sprain he sustained during the RCB innings, he said, “Sort of slipped going for a second, sprained in my ankle. But that was where fitness counts, the other muscles took over. I thought 155, the wicket was slow, breaking off, you’ll see it will be much difficult batting in the second innings. I have to sprint out now.”

Gujarat Lions captain Suresh Raina praised his batsmen for the win. “Good win, when Virat got a hundred I thought it was going away from us. But Baz (Brendon McCullum) and Dwayne Smith got us off to a great start. We did not lose focus, we had good partnerships in the chase,” said Raina.

“Smithy has been batting really well up the order with CSK, he had a really good PSL. Not sure about Finchy’s (Aaron Finch) fitness.”

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