Kolkata: Come November 17, Virat Kohli will add one more feather to his illustrious cap. The Indian Test skipper will be taking the field in the whites for the 50th time. Somebody who already has quite a few milestones written against his name, Kohli no doubt would cherish the moment. Nothing is more gratifying than representing your country and Kohli would second that.
As he goes out to the middle for the toss with English captain Alastair Cook at Visakapatnam tomorrow, he will be cheered and applauded. Because, after Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni, it’s now Kohli’s era and he undoubtedly is the Superstar of Indian cricket. He is a crowd-puller and people throng stadiums to watch him bat. Rewind a bit and take a trip down the memory lane, when arrogant, brash, immature and too aggressive were words synonymous with the guy from Delhi. Yes, he wanted to win and hated defeats, but emotions got the better of him at times.
He hates falling short of victory, yet he has a much cooler head above his shoulders now. After all, he is the skipper in the five-day format. A friend who had the good fortune of speaking to one of Kohli’s teammates recently quoted the latter, “Virat hates defeat and is disappointed if he ends up on the losing side.”
It’s true in general, but his match-saving innings at Rajkot only showcases a much more mature Kohli who plays to the situation. Had he had wickets in hand, he would have gone for the kill, but with wickets falling at regular intervals, he preferred to settle for a draw. And check his magnanimity: Anybody else would have wanted to complete his half-century and then shake hands with the rival skipper signalling the end of the match. But our Chikoo (his nickname) is an exception. He preferred to end the game while still batting at 49. Another half-century wouldn’t have made much of a difference to his Test career which has already witnessed 13 hundreds in 49 matches.
Welcome to the world of Virat Kohli who is far more composed, has worked on his temperament and would not do anything hastily. Yet, winning is foremost in his mind. Set him a target, his first option would be to go for it, but if the situation is not conducive, he will rework his strategy and settle for a draw. But it’s the same person who almost won India the Test at Adelaide in 2014. His 141 in the second innings against the Aussies brought India close to a much deserving triumph, but alas. Batting on the fifth day, the skipper was in no mood to give up chasing a target of 364. What could have been a memorable victory goes down the pages as a match that India lost.
But it’s the attitude here that is worth noting. Gone are those days, when the Gavaskars and Azaharuddins played safe and ensured that India didn’t lose. This was a phenomenon that was quite a trend in the ‘60s, ‘70s and continued till the late ‘80s and ’90s until Sourav Ganguly took over. Of course, there was MAK Pataudi, rated as perhaps the best captain India has ever had, who preferred winning. It was his aggression that many critics would say was the reason behind losing 19 Test matches against 9 victories as captain. But he charted a course that was lapped up by some of his successors including Ganguly and Kohli.
Here’s a Virat Kohli, whom the entire nation looks to. Here’s a guy who exudes confidence amidst all odds. Here’s a cricketer who is passionate and emboldens his teammates to take on the world. Here’s a fitness fanatic whose disciplined life is exemplary. Here’s a youth icon who doesn’t let success get into his head despite being the darling of advertisers. And on top of it, here’s a heartthrob who is a family man and distractions elude him. Kohli wants to finish it off for his side and would not be content getting a big one and leaving the finishing job to others. He will make sure he stays till the end in all formats of the game.
This guy is special and when a Vivian Richards says he bats like he used to do, one wouldn’t have to think twice. Kohli is awaiting greatness and that day isn’t too far. When Imran Khan says in an interview to a leading English Daily, “Cricket has had eras. In the eighties, it was Viv Richards, and then you had Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar who stood out. Virat Kohli is one of the most complete players I’ve seen. He’s so versatile; he plays on both feet, and on all sides of the field,’’ you have to take him seriously.
The new Kohli has arrived and ushers in a new dawn in Indian cricket. His boys trust him, so does the team management. He speaks straight but will avoid controversies. Yet, if his girl-friend is trolled, he is the first one to take on the cudgels on her behalf.
Knowing Kohli and his class, he will go on to play many more Test matches for the country and hopefully, the urge to win will be a trend he will set for the next generation of cricketers. Many congratulations in advance on yet another milestone.