Batting bastion!

There is not a shot that Virat Kohli has not mastered. From the cover-drive to the on-drive, he plays them with ease.

Virat Kohli simply loves Test cricket!   -  Getty Images

Virat Kohli is the emperor of batting. In contemporary cricket, no individual has left as indelible a mark on the art of batting as this indefatigable run-scorer. As a captain he leads by example, and his batting brings pure entertainment.

Kohli has the measure of the opposition from the first ball. His brisk gait to the crease signifies his confidence. “He is possessed with rare batting skills. I have seen him grow and am hardly surprised with the progress he has made. He is a sheer joy to watch,” was how Ashish Nehra looked at Kohli the batsman.

There are no apparent weak spots in his batting. Various bowlers have tried breaching his defence early in the innings, but Kohli has always responded with an emphatic knock. Watch him face the first ball. He hardly shows the discomfort of a new batsman at the crease.

Coach Rajkumar Sharma believes he has built this confidence at the crease from his junior cricket days. “He hated losing his wicket. To do that he would concentrate hard. There was a certain way to his batting. That he wanted to compete hard made him a batsman to watch and he made sure that once he got his eye in there was no respite for the bowlers,” said Sharma.

Cricket has seen some devastating batsmen who could pulverise the bowlers into submission. Viv Richards is a shining example of a batsman who had scant regard for bowling attacks. He would excel on any pitch with his wide range of shots. Kohli brings a similar attitude to his batting.

Australian coach Justin Langer recently compared Kohli with Sachin Tendulkar. To put things in perspective it would not be proper to compare the two. Champions of different eras, Tendulkar and Kohli can be termed the best of their era. The debate can continue, but Kohli has often said on record that he does not encourage comparisons.

Don Bradman is acknowledged as the greatest because of the consistency that he brought to his batting. He was an epitome of correctness. As the game evolved, new batsmen staked claims to the top spot with Sunil Gavaskar universally emerging the favourite of most captains. But Gavaskar too did not appreciate comparisons.

In the One-Day arena in which he has been so successful, Kohli is prepared to put in the hard work and rotate the strike.   -  K. R. Deepak

 

Gavaskar was a batsman who epitomised the importance of technique. The ease with which he stood up to the fast bowlers of his era on hostile pitches placed Gavaskar among the greatest of all time. “I think he was flawless as a batsman. A marvel at the crease,” was the view of Kapil Dev, a great all-rounder himself.

When Gavaskar departed from the scene, Tendulkar arrived to dominate various bowling attacks with an intensity that marked him as the greatest of his era. Kohli has stepped into that slot now with a display of batting skills that leave the bowlers in a daze.

Australia coach Justin Langer triggered a debate when he likened Kohli to Tendulkar. “Sachin was an incredible cricketer. I used to watch him and it was like he was meditating. He was so calm and that’s why his record is peerless. Virat is doing the same thing. He is so calm and so competitive, and technically his balance is so unbelievable. For him to play 360-degree shots in all formats of the game, his balance is unbelievable,” said Langer.

Kohli is a master in all the formats of the game. Defence and aggression come naturally to this gifted batsman. And Kohli loves to carry the batting responsibilities of the team on his shoulders. His batting talent has been honed over a period of time and the ease with which he gets into position to tackle the ball is sensational. He also plays pre-determined strokes even though such moments are rare as he has so much time to play the ball. “Hardly any weaknesses in his batting,” notes V. V. S. Laxman who is an unabashed fan of Kohli’s work at the crease.

It is Kohli’s love for Test cricket that adds to his batting lustre and he is convinced that his best is yet to come. As he said recently, “As long as you’re willing to wake up every morning for five days and do the hard yards and go do the dirty work — if you’re willing to bat for two hours for the team and not score a run — I think that is what people should prepare (youngsters) (for).”

Youngsters have often modelled their batting style on their role models and Kohli brings a rare quality of consistency to be the torch-bearer. That consistency comes from his desire to dominate. His footwork and mental strength are a lively combination that show him in the most comfortable state at the crease. The fact that he is willing to accept challenges also brings the best out of him regardless of the surface he bats on.

The comparison with Sachin Tendulkar is inevitable, but Kohli is a star in his own right.   -  AFP

 

Many batsmen have some chinks in the initial stages at the crease, but not Kohli. He settles down in quick time and rarely throws away his wicket. Bowlers need incisive deliveries to breach his defence, which is as compact as a coach can desire. “He remembers his lessons well,” observes Sharma, who spends hours with Kohli in the nets before every tour.

There is not a shot that Kohli has not mastered. From the cover-drive to the on-drive, he plays them with ease. It was said of G. R. Viswanath that he had two shots for every delivery, the last-moment adjustment giving the ball the direction. Kohli can be credited with the same skill. He is a champion at picking the length of the ball and the gaps to reap the best. No wonder he has tasted awesome success at home and overseas.

Tendulkar has a unique place in the gallery of greats. So has Kohli with each having a distinct style and skill. Let Kohli remain the individual who has enriched modern cricket with his flawless batting. Comparisons don’t do justice to his art.