Why Kohli is even greater than Tendulkar

And he's not yet 28.

 |  5-minute read |   20-03-2016
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There's the slow sublime serenity of Test cricket. There's the faster paced ODI world. Then there's the mad slam bang international T20 arena.

There are those unending records in cricket to boost anyone's case and those damned statistics. Then there are those cricketers who worship only victories and don't scratch the record books much.

Combine all of the above and there's only one cricketer who shines brightly on each and every parameter.

His name is Virat Kohli. He wears his attitude on his sleeve. He gives two hoots for reputations. He gives as good as he gets. He can raise his finger and abuse the wildly passionate and boorish Australian public and still command their absolute respect.

Also read: Virat Kohli best thing about India versus Pakistan World T20 match

While most wilt under the pressure of captaincy, he can lift his already near-perfect game when given the burden of Indian leadership, which has always proved to be a crown of thorns. If MS Dhoni plays "no fear cricket" then Kohli is all about "no fear cricket on steroids!"

He is the greatest player in world cricket today. Kohli, take a bow. You deserve every bit of applause that is coming your way.

Also read: Why Steve Waugh thinks Kohli is world's best batsman

We were told that it's very difficult to be consistent in T20s. On some days you'll be a hit. On some days you'll be a miss. Chris "Genius" Gayle symbolises this perfectly. In 2012-'13, he had a string of single digit scores and now he has slammed three straight 75-plus scores.

Also read - World T20: What will Virat Kohli do next?

That's why he has an average of 37.7, up there with the other T20 greats: Aussie Aaron Finch (39.8) and South African Faf du Plessis (38.9). What about Mr Kohli? He's not in the 30s. No, he's not even in the 40s. He's sitting alone on Mount Everest with an average of 53.6!

Such an average was thought impossible in T20s. But it's not just about records. He always performs when the pressure is the greatest. He was the top performer in both the semi final and final of the 2014 World T20.

He helped effect the only 3-0 whitewash on Australian soil. He was the star of the Asia Cup final. In a must-win match against Pakistan in the World T20 on Saturday (March 19) when we were at a precarious 23-3, his unbeaten half-century took us across the line comfortably.

His new year has been even more fantastic with knocks of 90*, 59*, 50, 7, 49, 56*, 41*, 23 and 55*! Average: 107.5. Hello! That's great even in Tests.

In ODIs he has scored more than 7,000 runs at an average of 51.5 with 25 centuries to boot. It is clear that he is on course to break the great Sachin Tendulkar's ODI records. But again, it has much more to do than mere records.

He's our victory magnet here too. In the 2011 ODI World Cup final his partnership with Gautam Gambhir was crucial when we lost Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag early. He was the star of the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy final, the only time we won it outside the Indian subcontinent.

He had a rare failure in the knockout stage of the World Cup 2015 and India predictably, crashed. In the past, we still managed to win many tournaments when Tendulkar failed, but today we rarely do well without Kohli.

Here's another interesting piece of statistic. We have an 11-0 record against Pakistan in all World Cups. From 1992-2011 the star was Tendulkar, who got three man of the match awards in these matches.

Well, Kohli also has three such man of the match awards, but just from 2012-'16. Howzat!

And of course, who can chase better than Kohli? Aussie Michael Bevan was the greatest finisher. Dhoni surpassed him. And one must say that Kohli has surpassed even Dhoni in both ODIs and T20s. He's getting there in Tests.

Talking of Tests, that used to be his only chink in the armour till a few years ago. Not anymore. In the 2014-'15 Australia series he scored a massive 692 runs, way ahead of what the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman could achieve Down Under.

In fact, after a false start in Tests after he was dropped, he stabilised big time. His last bad series was the 2014 England tour after which he averages a jaw-dropping 79 in the last 12 matches. Let's face it. Currently Kohli is India's best Test, ODI and T20 player.

He got better after he was made Test captain. We won a series in Sri Lanka after more than 20 years. The next series with South Africa was tougher. These are our last seven series results (2001-'13) before Kohli took over: 0-1, 1-0, 1-2, 1-1, 1-1, 1-1 and 0-1. Phew! What a close and intense rivalry.

Captain Kohli broke free and thrashed South Africa 3-0 to take India to the ICC number one Test rankings. The last South Africa suffered a 0-3 loss was way back in 2006. Had it not been for rain it would definitely have been 4-0. The last they suffered a 0-4 defeat was way back in 1949.

It doesn't matter to Kohli what the format of the game or what the country or what the conditions or what the pressure is. Kohli delivers. One struggles to think of such widespread consistency in international cricket.

Kohli is the god of both records and victories. He's a natural in every format of the game. He thrives at home and overseas. He has probably gone past the other god he was seen bowing to in the match against Pakistan at the Eden Gardens on Saturday. And he's not yet 28.

Writer

Sunil Rajguru Sunil Rajguru @sunilrajguru

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

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