A legend in making, Virat Kohli has shut all critics with his game

He isn't mature enough to be captain. He swears on the field. Or that's what the detractors kept telling us.

 |  5-minute read |   19-05-2016
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Indian batting sensation Virat Kohli burst onto the ODI scene like a star and it seemed there was nothing he couldn't do. He batted fluently. He chased down targets with ease. He was a match-winner. He was on course to break the legendary Sachin Tendulkar's ODI records.

But his critics (it seems quite distant now, but there were many) felt that he could do little else. They kept saying "he can't do this" and "he can't do that". But little by little he has proved that he can, in fact, almost do anything, justifying the tag of "superhero" that explosive West Indian batsman and fellow Royal Challengers Bangalore player Chris Gayle recently bestowed on him.

Here are some of the myths he has busted about his game:

1. Kohli doesn't have the temperament to be a great Test player

They kept saying that he didn't have a solid game to last in Test cricket. And he indeed was in and out of the team and the selectors were unsure whether he had a long-term future in the longer version of the game. Remember, ODI hitters Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina didn't last there.

Also read - IPL 9: For Kohli, nobody's undroppable, not even Gayle

In the 2011-'12 tour of Australia, Kohli top scored with 300 runs in the series ahead of openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir; ahead of the troika of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. But still his critics didn't take him seriously.

gayle-kohli_051916045731.jpg Kohli has broken Chris Gayle's record of most runs in a single IPL.

Then in South Africa in 2013 he averaged 68 and in New Zealand in 2014 he averaged 71.3. Kohli had now performed in most of the conditions considered hostile by Indian batsmen. But he wasn't done yet.

In the 2014-'15 series Down Under, he hit four centuries and amassed 692 runs in the series. No Indian batsman had ever performed so well on tough Australian conditions. In fact Australia is currently the Mecca of Test cricket, so if you can make it big there, you can make it big anywhere. Kohli's Test critics finally shut up.

Also read: IPL 9 shows Dhoni's days are over, Kohli is the new king

Sunil Gavaskar made 774 runs in the 1971 West Indies tour. It took 40-odd years for anyone to even come close in an away series.

2. Kohli isn't mature enough to be captain 

He is the bad boy of cricket. He swears on the field. He shows his middle finger to the crowd. He won't be able to handle his team. He's brash. He's too immature to be captain. Or that's what his critics kept telling us.

Then captaincy was thrust on him in the first Test at Adelaide in 2014. Batting first, Kohli showed absolutely no sign of nerves as his 115 helped India hit 444, relatively close to Australia's 517.

When we batted fourth, the target was 364, considered impossible for most in such tough conditions against such a tough side. But Kohli had other ideas. He actually went for it! At 304-6 and Kohli on 141, anything was possible. But Kohli got out and we lost.

As the full-time Test captain, Kohli then took his side to Sri Lanka, after a one-off Test against Bangladesh. India lost the first match of the series in Sri Lanka. That was the turning point for Kohli and he could have gone into a shell.

But he decided not to give up, and India won the next two matches to win the series 2-1. It was India's first series win in Sri Lanka in 22 years. He then took his aggressive leadership to the home series against South Africa. A rare 3-0 thrashing had the Proteas seeing stars. Had it not been for rain in Bangalore, it could have been 4-0. The last time South Africa lost a Test series 0-4 was way back in 1949-'50!

You can say that we always do well at home but the Proteas are the most consistent away team and post-Apartheid, this is their Test series record in India before Kohli took over captaincy: 1-2, 2-0, 0-1, 1-1 and 1-1.

Even in IPL 2016, despite having arguably the worst bowling attack of the tournament, he has led from the front and RCB has fought well in all its matches.

3. We can do without Kohli in T20 internationals 

Team India used to play just one-two international T20s a year when Kohli debuted in 2010 and he was totally lacklustre in the first few years. Nobody took him that seriously. Then he steadily became indispensable for Team India in this format too.

In the 2014 World T20 he averaged 106.3, hitting 72*(44) in the semis and 77(58) in the final. The final saw one of our most spineless batting displays ever and the team could just muster 130 and we lost despite Kohli's brilliance.

In the T20 series in Australia in 2016, he averaged 199 (is that even possible in T20s?) after which he powered us to an Asia Cup win. In the World T20 he averaged 136.5 and in the semis he blasted 89*(47).

Kohli has rightly been called the Bradman of T20s for nobody has ever been this consistent.

4. IPL is one place where Kohli won't dominate

You can't have it all can you? If you do so well in Tests, ODIs and T20Is, you are bound to fail somewhere, right? While Kohli has been consistent in IPLs, he was never the star of the tournament the way Gayle was. Gayle owned IPL. Till 2015 at least.

Kohli in 2016 has shown that he wants each and every prize. He wants to climb each and every peak. After 13 matches in IPL 9, he has 865 runs, four centuries, five half-centuries and an average of 86.5.

There is still some way to go before the tournament ends, but this is already the greatest batting performance ever by an Orange Cap holder (The previous highest was 733 runs and two centuries in a season.).

Parting shot...

ODIs. Tests. Captaincy. T20Is. IPL.

Kohli has checked all five boxes in grand style.

How many players in the world of cricket can boast of such a mindboggling range? With the way he continues to peak (it shows no signs of going down in the last few years), the best could well be ahead of him. Meanwhile, does Kohli still have any critics left? Is there any peak he can't climb?

Writer

Sunil Rajguru Sunil Rajguru @sunilrajguru

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

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