Purring along

He has his eye on the ball. He also has a sense of timing, both, while stroking the sphere from the middle of the willow or conjuring performances when his team needs them.

Virat Kohli’s desire complements his ability. His gaze reflects his hunger and his bat does the talking. In fact, opponents are often left speechless particularly when this right-hander of bat-speed and precision picks the ball from off and wrists it between square-leg and mid-wicket.

While stiffer tests await him in Tests, Kolhi is on the highway to glory in one-day cricket. So far, he has devoured miles in a hurry, reaching milestones in the process.

Already, Kolhi’s ODI numbers are staggering. In 90 matches, he has 3886 runs at 51.81 (strike rate 86.43). And only Sachin Tendulkar, with 14, had more ODI centuries than Kohli before the age of 24.

Kohli, just 23, has 13 ODI hundreds. Creditably, as many as eight of these three-figure innings arrived when India had pursued targets. He has not just managed to cope with the pressures of the chase but actually harnessed the stressful situations to stoke his combative instincts. He does have the heart for the combat. Kohli has innings-building skills, can work the ball around or flash the sphere through the gaps; his off-side play has improved significantly.

Kohli has been on a roll since February 28 when he tore into the Sri Lankan bowling with a death-or-glory 133 at Hobart. During that astonishing blitzkrieg, he dismissed Lasith Malinga’s scorching yorkers with disdain.

Subsequently, he has scores of 108 against Sri Lanka and a pulse-pounding 183 at the expense of the Pakistani attack at Dhaka, 106 versus Sri Lanka at Hambantota and 128 not out that ambushed Mahela Jayawardene’s men in Colombo. In 2012, Kohli has a mind-boggling 1026 runs from 16 ODIs at 73.28 at a strike-rate of 94.21 with five centuries. He has raised the bar, conquered peaks.

Importantly, he appears a stayer in the international arena, someone who can retain his equanimity if the ride gets rough.

Kohli’s commitment is his strength and he has the mental attributes to fight his way through troubled times. It was only last year, in the West Indies, that Kohli found himself in darkness in the otherwise sun-lit Caribbean. The pacemen made him hop around with the short-pitched stuff and Kohli, his footwork not in place, was jabbing hard at the ball to be picked up by the close-in cordon.

Kohli spent countless hours working on the shortcoming at the nets and emerged from the career crisis a transformed man.

In the Test series down under, he stood up Australia's pace barrage on the pacey wicket in Perth. If he was squared-up by the short-pitched bowling in the West Indies, he was now getting into a much better side-on position. And his back-and-across movement looked a well-oiled one. In a fire-fighting mode, Kolhi produced innings of 44 and and 75 at the bouncy WACA. These were ‘breakthrough’ knocks for the Delhi lad.

Then, his feisty 116 in the Adelaide Test confirmed his rising stature. It was heartening to see him getting solidly behind the line.

In an emerging Test career, Kohli has 491 runs in eight Tests at 32.73. His batting has the kind of flexibility that augurs well for the future. Kohli’s swaggers blend with common sense.

S. Dinakar