G Rajaraman: Virat Kohli uses bat like a surgeon would employ a scalpel
We must tread carefully when it comes to comparing Kohli with great batsmen from earlier eras. We let our jaws drop when those giants entertained us, we can do the same now because Virat is Virat
It is a good bet that the most gifted of poets will find it tough to string together a new song in praise of his batsmanship. What chance do mortals have then in writing something fresh about Virat Kohli's unfettered talent with the bat, one that saw him scale Mount 10,000 in ODI cricket with his 37th century in humid Visakhapatnam yesterday.
Kohli has gained such a grasp of the game over the years that he is able to pace his innings admirably. It is this ability to soak in the learning and showcase maturity, despite the load that he has had to bear in the recent years when the middle-order has not been the Indian team's strongest suit, that makes him such a special batsman.
The reminders of limited-over cricket come in the form of power play and the restrictions on the bowling side, but you cannot feel that in the grammar of his batting. The old-school approach that he takes to the crease, patient in settling down and then shifting gears to strike it to different parts of the field. And in doing that, he seems to get the bowler to do exactly as he would will him to.
There is nothing brutal or savage about his strokes with that mighty bat of his. In fact, it is almost as if he uses it like a surgeon would employ a scalpel rather than a sword to cause damage to the opposition. Through it all, he never appears to lose the magical gift of timing and placement that helps him make the gaps look bigger than they are. Besides, he runs hard between the wickets. He has never fought shy of giving his fellow batsmen their due. The most recent example is his praise of Rohit Sharma after the opening game of the series in Guwahati. Clearly, he is comfortable in his skin and not looking over the shoulder — or under the captain's chair to see if some firecracker has been placed there. His batsmanship stems from an acute awareness of his own talent.
In 'great' company
It is this talent that has helped him match or surpass feats of Tendulkar or Brian Lara or Vivian Richards who astonished cricket fans earlier. Yet, we must tread carefully when it comes to comparison with such batsmen from earlier eras. We let our jaws drop when the giants of an earlier generation entertained us. We can do the same now.
He may have drawn inspiration from a number of legends but he has himself has been relentless in his pursuit of excellence. With each year, he has inched closer to perfection despite being aware that it is, after all, a Utopian quest. Unmindful of that, he goes out to the middle and expresses himself as well as he can, batting at optimum levels.
Captains around the world – backed by coaches and video analysts – have been scratching their heads, looking for a sign of weakness, of fragility, in his batsmanship. In fact, teams may value his wicket as worth two of most other batsmen.
For years now, he has been the key target of rivals of the Indian team. And despite being aware of that fact, the batsman in him has always been razor-sharp to the extent that if someone wakes him up in the dead of the night and ask him to bat, you can expect him to turn up and start playing as intensely as ever, suggesting that he would be ready all the time to walk to the crease.
There is no question that Virat Kohli is in an altogether different league compared to all contemporary batsmen, barring a couple like England's Joe Root and the now suspended Australian Steve Smith. The Indian team and the hordes of its fans will be keen that he extends this rich vein of form for time to come. Perhaps the poet will find a thread to weave a song around him, after all.
DISCLAIMER: mid-day and its affiliates shall have no liability for any views, thoughts and comments expressed on this article.
Mithali Raj's journey from dancer to ace cricketer!