What Virat has going for him
It’s a pleasant afternoon practice session at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore. The season: June 2006. Some of Indian cricket’s brightest talents are going through their paces under the eagle eyes of coach Lalchand Rajput. As a former Mumbai opener, Rajput has played plenty of cricket with Sunil Gavaskar; he was captain of the Ranji team when Sachin Tendulkar made his debut. So, he has, as they say, seen a couple of guys who could bat the leather off the ball. A coach usually avoids singling out a ward for special mention. However, that day Rajput couldn’t help asking reporters: “You must have seen Virat? A great talent!”
Six years later, last week, that “great talent”—Virat Kohli to give his full name—was the lone diamond sparkling in the rubble left behind by India’s exit from the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka. Named the ODI cricketer of the year just a fortnight earlier, Kohli drew oohs and aahs with his strokeplay in the game’s shortest version. Suddenly, from Pallekelle to Paschim Vihar, questions were being asked: are we looking at the next big thing in batting now that Sachin too has indicated he’s on his way out? And hey, could the boy who captained India to an Under-19 World Cup title not be M.S Dhoni’s replacement if push comes to shove before 2015? The safe answer for the first query is, “Perhaps, but it’s too early to say.” The not-so-safe answer for the second: “Oh yeah.”
By the time he turned 24, Sachin had already been on the international circuit for seven years, with 11 centuries under his belt in 52 Tests; ‘Cheeku’, as Kohli, 24 next month, is called by close pals, has a measly two. After 10 Tests, there is little to separate Kohli’s 703 runs with Dravid’s 773 though. Some are surer. “He’ll be No. 1 in times to come. In a year or two, he’ll be treated on a par with Gavaskar, Sachin and Kapil Dev,” says ex-captain Ajit Wadekar. “We thought there would be a big void after Dravid and Laxman, but Kohli seems to be fitting perfectly in their shoes.”
Kohli’s team in Bangalore after the Under-19 World Cup win, ’08. (Photograph by AFP, From Outlook 15 October 2012)
Unlike the Fab Four who earned their spurs when the big stars were still blazing and brought a certain certitude to the crease—and like Zubin Mehta who by his own admission managed to conduct the world’s great orchestras because the designated conductor couldn’t be around—Kohli’s initial career was aided by the fact that the Boys in Blue had some ageing, injury-prone warhorses. His ODI debut in Sri Lanka in ’08 happened because Sachin and Sehwag were injured. He came back the next year because Yuvraj was missing. He got a chance in Bangladesh in 2010 because Sachin was, er... rested. He was named vice-captain because the established, big players skipped a tri-series tournament. He was in the Test side because, well, Gambhir wasn’t well.
It may be a lucky streak but you still have to grab the opportunities you get—in cricketspeak, it’s a juicy half-volley, but it still has to be hit for a boundary. So far Viru-II hasn’t missed many of those; in fact, many would aver, he is Viru-I plus technique. Says former left-arm spinner Maninder Singh: “I have always felt he is a better version of Sehwag. He can score at Sehwag’s pace, and has a superior batting technique.” Adds ex-skipper Dilip Vengsarkar, who first selected Kohli in ’08: “He’s improving with each outing. He is young but already very experienced and he has scored against almost all countries.”
It grew really shrill during the Australia tour early this year. Recalled to England as cover for Yuvraj, Kohli did just well enough to merit a place for Australia where the chin music came from spectators. Dravid and Laxman wouldn’t be caught dead outside the match referee’s room, but in Sydney in January, Kohli pleaded guilty before Ranjan Madugalle after he’d been caught showing the finger to the crowd. Kohli tweeted: “I agree cricketers don’t have to retaliate. what when the crowd says the worst things about your mother and sister. the worst ive heard”.
Kohli with Siddharth Mallya at an IPL after-party show, 2010. (Photograph by Getty Images, From Outlook 15 October 2012))
Ironically, fans love him for just this aggro, this bluntness, reflecting the edginess that fist-pumping and war-paint-donning fans have brought to the modern game. “I love Virat’s go-getting attitude,” says Akash Gulati, an ardent fan in Delhi. “We all work hard and party hard. So does he.” But Virat has been careful to shed his bad-boy image quickly. He knows he retains his fans only as long as he plays well. So despite being noticed for his attitude, he was the only Indian batsman who stood up to the Aussies in the series that India lost 4-0. “The innings in Australia gave me a huge amount of confidence. Critics had questioned my technique and temperament for Tests, so it was very satisfying after the Adelaide (where he scored 116) and Perth (75 runs) knocks. The hundred at Hobart (in a one-day game against Sri Lanka) was the icing on the cake,” says Kohli. This determination hasn’t been lost on the greats of the game. Dravid’s wholehearted praise (“Kohli is currently the best Indian batsman across formats”) pleased the youngster immensely. “Dravid’s praise means the world to me. Coming from someone like Rahul bhai, it’s a great honour,” says Kohli.
“The world does see Virat as the next big star. He is dynamic in all forms of the game. Now it’s up to him to acquire an aura, like a Tendulkar or Lara,” says former West Indian opener Phil Simmons, currently Ireland’s coach. Ganguly, though, says comparisons with Sachin are not on, for the moment anyway: “I won’t compare him or anyone with Sachin. It’s not about 1-2 years but more than two decades of the consistency Kohli is showing today...that’s how you become a Tendulkar.”
Kohli has only played 10 Tests—even in this blitzkrieg of T20 games, it is still the true arena where a player earns his spurs. And he knows this. “Well, I can’t speak for others but personally nothing motivates me more than doing well and carving a niche in the ultimate form of the game,” he says. “ipl is just a few weeks’ tournament and ultimately people remember you for your Test match performances.” His Test baptism didn’t begin too well. When he became the first member of the World Cup-winning 2008 Under-19 squad to get a Test call (Abhinav Mukund is the only other), Kohli thought he had it all mapped out, till Fidel Edwards bounced him out in the Caribbean. But the Australian tour showed that he is a quick learner and is ready to face the best bowling attacks on their home turfs.
But not many seem to be willing to wait too long—right from cricket commentators, his many fans and going by the reported utterances of outgoing chief selector K. Srikkanth, even the BCCI—for the skipper’s cap to be handed over to Virat Kohli. “I had said a year-and-a-half ago that Kohli was made for captaincy,” says former captain and commentator Ravi Shastri. He says it’s a good decision that they have already started grooming him. “That said, I think Kohli, or for that matter any player, should not and does not have to change his personality for captaincy,” he says.
But others warn that captaincy at this juncture may be too much too soon. Wadekar—who does believe that Kohli has it in him to be the next Dravid or Laxman—is among those who feels it’s too early. “If India is looking ahead for 10 years or so, it’s the right time to groom him,” says ex-India wicket-keeper Chandrakant Pandit, also advocating caution. “In our culture, experience counts, but if you are looking at several years from now, one may wonder how many of the seniors will be around. Dhoni is doing a great job, assisting him would be good for Kohli.” It’s that against the impatience of the young.
The Virat Leaderboard
Centuries in one-dayers:
Virat Kohli is the fastest Indian to score 1,000 runs, and then 3,000 runs in ODIs
Kohli was ICC ODI cricketer of the year 2011-12. Played 31 ODIs, scored 1,733 runs at an average of 66.65 with 8 tons, 6 fifties. His highest score was 183, against Pakistan in the Asia Cup.
2012 Oz tour heroics earns Kohli a promotion, as India’s ODI vice-captain.
Tour saw him rise as India’s Mr Dependable, only batter to score a 100 in both Tests, ODIs
The only player to be retained by his IPL team Royal Challengers. Was their second highest run-getter, after Gayle.
By Vimal Kumar in Colombo and Prachi Pinglay-Plumber in Mumbai
There is no denying that Virat Kohli is the future of Indian cricket (Spunk Rock, Oct 15). But while he deserves kudos for his focus on the game, determination, style and aggressive attitude, his unmistakable swearing, cursing and petty misbehaviour will diminish his stature in the gentleman’s game. Future captain Virat needs to polish his attitude and emulate the likes of Tendulkar and Dravid if he intends to play a long innings in Indian cricket.
K. Chidanand Kumar, Bangalore
What is wrong with you guys at Outlook? So many issues to report on, and you choose a cricketer! Have you taken money from cricket publicists? Or have your paymasters been asked to keep quiet and lie low for a while?
Venkat, Raritan, US
Till very recently, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the lord and master of all that he surveyed as far as the captaincy of Indian cricket was concerned. The arrival of the youthful Virat Kohli will force Captain Cool to get more serious.
Venkatesh G. Iyer, Chennai
Kohli is a fantastic batsman, with the flamboyance and charisma of a rock star. India has seen only two captains whose style and personality off the field matched their monumental cricketing talent on it: M.L. Jaisimha and Pataudi.
Ganesh Natrajan, Isere
Kohli is no doubt the ace of the future. But he has to face tougher tests before we can finally declare him to be the future of Indian cricket. Tipping him for the captaincy is premature; he has to prove himself as a batsman on the hostile pitches of South Africa, England, the West Indies and Oz.
C.K. Subramaniam, Mumbai
It is not time yet to pin up Kohli for the captain’s post. India needs its youth brigade to come good in away matches too. Burdening them with talk of captaincy will only mess up the process of his maturing.
Varun Dambal, Bangalore
@Venkat:You are absolutely right there buddy.
This is a remarkably left of centre magazine & so is the congress/UPA.
So it is convenient for them to attempt to divert our attention with these issues,instead of reporting,interpreting and analysing the MOST relevant issues at the moment in the nation & polity.
But because the congress is messing up so miserably & so often,even outlookindia got tired of defending them or hiring inane spin doctors to somehow divert the issue.
Now,even leftist pro-congress spin isn't going to work. Outlook knew that & hence did what they had to.
If it were the BJP goofing up,they would never have come up with something like this & would have reported it ingreat detail.
Probably would have had a few 'Modi Ko Maaro' articles.
Note,I'm not necessarily even a real BJP fan.
Virat Kohli has all the good qualities of a middle order batsman. He is also the right choice and competent to fill in the No. 3 spot in a test match, a job, elegantly and confidently handled by Rahul Dravid. I believe that the hardest test for an Indian batsman who is likely to be No. 3 in test matches is his ability to face pace attacks of bowlers from Australia, South Africa, England, New Zealand, Pakistan and even Sri Lanka. Often our batsmen have failed abroad to do this with ability. We have to improve that wins record abroad. Virat Kohli and his young colleagues need to be exposed to a variety of surfaces and trained in a systematic fashion to face awkward bounce and ferocious pace. Virat Kohli can become a successful captain after a few successful tours abroad as vice captain
What is wrong with you people at OUTLOOK? you chose to do a cover story and so much newsprint on one cricketer when there are so many issues to report. Did you take any money from cricekting publicists? or your paymasters asked to keep quiet and lie low for some time? What will be your next cover story? length of legs of ramp models?
“Virat’s stride is not like Kangaroo’s and Leopard’s but Python’s – who can scale any height without skidding and swallow anything without fretting.”
BTW,that IPL after-party photo has Kohli NOT looking at that nice pair of legs on the ramp.I'm sure he wanted to.
But This only shows how conscious celebs have to be of themselves, with our crazy media.
They can't even look at things they love anymore.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT