Plenty has been said of Kohli in the past few years. Promising youngster, talented player, gifted batsman, technically sound, arrogant and reckless have been the common words used to describe the young Delhi dasher in the past, and now finally we have reached a point in time - a pivotal point in Kohli’s career where he transforms from being a promising young cricketer and becomes a legend of the game following the steps of Tendulkar, Waugh, Lara and the other names who have crossed that great divide that separates a good player and a great one.
The first I heard about Kohli was in 2007 when he was the captain of the Under-19 India team, leading the team to victory in the U -19 World Cup in Malayasia – only the second Indian to achieve the feat. That was also the first time I got to see Kohli bat, watching him score a fluent 43 in the semi-finals. I remember thinking to myself then that this kid looks promising and was certain that he would one day play for India. Now almost 5 years since then, that same kid who I thought to be promising is making the headlines and has established himself as a star in the Indian team and a candidate for captaincy in the future.
When I learned that Royal Challengers Bangalore had managed to procure Virat Kohli, I was overjoyed. He immediately made a difference to the team and his young athletic body, plus amazing hand—eye co-ordination made him the best fielder in the RCB outfit by a mile and perhaps even in India. He was floated all over the batting order and played different roles during the tournament from coming at first drop and playing an anchor role to coming in with just a couple of deliveries remaining and hitting a few mighty blows over the ropes. He wasn’t a one-dimensional player and hence could play a multiple of roles with considerable ease. It was during this time that, then RCB skipper, Anil Kumble gave Kohli what he calls his most cherished accolade when he termed the Delhi lad as ‘India’s best under -22 player’. I still feel RCB missed something big by wasting Kohli in the middle order for most part. I finally met Kohli for the first time in 2008 – the very year he’d go on to don the Indian jersey and he came across as a very decent person.
Kohli’s career so far has been one that is generally full of highs with just a couple of lows. Probably shows how successful he is and the reasons behind that. Kohli who often is portrayed as an arrogant, reckless and an ill-tempered youth knows well that cricket holds first priority. One of the greatest fears I had was that he may become like Yuvraj Singh – another cricket talented beyond imagination and greatly successful in the limited formats, but someone who never did anything big in the whites. However he has made sure that he has put them all to rest.
Kohli as a cricketer brings to the game everything that represents the youth of this great country. Kohli himself being a young lad personifies best the feelings of the younger generation and his proud, aggressive and assertive ways speak volumes. However with all that youthfulness, there is also a very mature brain inside that head of his, which is proficient in the art of assessing a situation, laying down a plan and acting to carry that out without letting expectations, nerves and pressure influence him. His maiden century in test cricket that he brought up at Adelaide a few weeks ago was one such mature innings. Kohli was in complete control throughout that innings and his shot selection was just brilliant. Every single stroke he played was made sure that it was risk free and perhaps the only time he did take a risk was when he was in a hurry to reach the three figure mark, which is understandable. It was an innings that did go in vain as India lost that match, but that innings announced to the world that a new star has arrived – one who just isn’t made for the shorter formats of the game but also the test format.
Kohli is not only known for his aggressive and attacking style of play, but also for his strong defensive technique. Being technically correct isn’t enough and Kohli holds the old time principles of practice and hard work true and follows them rigorously. For the entire playboy, party charm that he has, Kohli maintains his cricket in a very serious sense and that is paying rich dividends. His knock of 133 not out of just 86 deliveries a couple days ago against Sri Lanka was just breathtaking and an innings that qualifies a legend. For me with that one knock, Kohli has established himself as India’s future. The selectors have made him as the vice captain for the upcoming Asia Cup and this is just another rung in the ladder for him.
Kohli still has a long way to go, but already in a short duration he has gone from being a promising young player to a established player. He is walking in the paths that only a few before him have walked and the next few years will tell us whether Kohli is all that we make him to be or just another player with immense potential but a failure. I’m sure he’ll be able to traverse that huge crevice that separates ordinary and extra-ordinary and I’m sure that we’ll be telling our grandkids about Kohli as one of India’s greatest cricketers.