In sport, as in life, comparisons are odious. Talking about someone taking an enduring achiever’s place is near-blasphemy, and raising them to a level meant for all-time greats borders on foolhardy. Yet, cricket lovers cannot help thinking that Virat Kohli is the Sachin Tendulkar of the current Indian team which beat Pakistan in their ICC World Cup cricket encounter at the Adelaide Oval yesterday.
At the very heart of India’s sixth World Cup victory over the old cricketing rival was Kohli’s 107 his 22nd in one-day international cricket. It was not a destructive innings, but an exercise of solidity and some punch thrown in for good measure. By putting his straight bat to good use, just like he did at the same venue during the opening Test of the Australian summer in December, he must have pleased even the staunchest of purists.
And like he did at Bangladesh in the last edition of the World Cup, Kohli notched up a hundred in the crucial Game One of the tournament.
He has earned a reputation of scoring centuries in run chases 14 in all. Here, he set up India’s victory in company of Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina.
The downside of sporting success is that you become more of a marked player. Doubtless, the South Africans, whom India face next Sunday in Melbourne, will have enough time to analyse what Kohli did right in Adelaide. But Kohli is not a spring chicken in dealing with scrutiny from the opposition. More importantly, he works very hard at his game, in such a manner that it made batting legend Sunil Gavaskar say in 2013 that no one works harder at his cricket than Kohli.
The length of the silent pause to the question, ‘after Tendulkar, who?’ has lessened with Kohli’s exploits just like it did when Tendulkar started notching up significant scores a few years after the departure of Gavaskar.
India can be proud of a cricketing system that keeps producing quality batsmen who continue to decorate respective eras.
This is the era of Kohli.