It'll be "Viiraat, Viiraat" at the Wankhede

Often, stars of different eras have come under the microscopic malady of comparisons but Virat and Sachin should be spared the intense critique.

Virat Kohli during a practice session.   -  AP

When Virat Kohli walks out to take strike against the West Indies on Thursday, the stadium is unlikely to indulge in the past when chants of “Sachin, Sachin” reverberated at the Wankhede. Once they used to reach a crescendo when B. S. Chandrasekhar ambled up to bowl but “Sachin, Sachin” is a phenomenon with roots across the globe.

It is “Viiraat, Viiraat” now. Perfectly fine, keeping in mind his conquests in the past one year or so. But does he need to be compared with Sachin Tendulkar, a rare cricket meteor, whose lustre refuses to fade? Often, stars of different eras have come under the microscopic malady of comparisons but Virat and Sachin should be spared the intense critique.

 

“I don’t like comparisons,” Sachin would respond with no effort to hide his irritation. Virat keeps the displeasure to himself. When critics rated Sunil Gavaskar above Don Bradman after the former reached his 29th Test century, the Indian maestro humbly pointed at the stats. Gavaskar did it in 166 innings while Bradman took a mere 80.

Bradman inspired Gavaskar, who, in turn, motivated Sachin. When Sachin was mauling the Aussies in Sharjah in 1998, a 10-year-old Virat would plonk himself in front of the TV, his chips and coke well-stocked. Not even a quake would stir him as he sat in awe of his hero. Every generation has entertainers to offer. Some grow into legends and some epitomise excellence in their vocation. Sachin, on his part, has passed on the mantle safely to Virat.

We revered Gavaskar and G. R. Viswanath; then enjoyed the exploits of Sachin, Azharuddin and V. V. S. Laxman; Let us now allow Virat to evolve. Without worrying if he is better than Bradman, Gavaskar, Viv Richards or Sachin. Bradman batted on uncovered pitches and Viv, without helmet. They have a secure and exalted position in world cricket. And, Virat is not challenging it. He is only looking to be different. Which he is. Also, he does not believe in mocking at history.

It is going to be Sachin’s turn now to join the audience at the Wankhede. He won’t mind being part of the “Viiraat, Viiraat” chant brigade. Both share a very humbling, mutual respect for each other. Let them remain what they are — iconic individuals with a common thread. One is an established great and the other, a work in process. Viv Richards was the only batsman in the history of the game who made the bowlers tremble. That can be next step for Virat.