Virat Kohli: Is there a chink in the armour?

At a very young age, Virat Kohli has achieved a lot in international cricket. He has already won the World Cup with the Indian team in 2011 and the Champions Trophy title has come soon after. He had earlier captained the Indian U-19 side to a world cup win that brought him instant fame and laurels. The list of personal achievements is also pretty impressive. He averages just below 50.00 in ODI cricket with 100 innings under his belt and is close to the 5000 run mark. He is the fastest Indian cricketer to reach 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000 run mark and expect that list to continue growing. He is the fastest cricketer in the history of the game to get 10 ODI hundreds. He was awarded the ODI Cricketer of the year award by the ICC in 2012 and was India’s highest run scorer in Test matches that year. So much stats can tell, and so much they can’t.

They can’t convey the flamboyance with which Virat Kohli has scored these runs and achieved these milestones. The young lad from Delhi embodies the young Indian spirit marked by over-brimming confidence and self-belief. The innings he played at Asia Cup in 2012 is a case in point. Chasing a massive total of 330 runs, Virat Kohli scored a blinder of an innings amassing 183 runs in just 148 balls to take Indian over the line. This was his second hundred in the tournament. The recently concluded Champions Trophy saw Virat play a critical knock under pressure in the final. The chips were down, the conditions were alien and hostile but he stood up and played a knock that helped India win the match eventually.

His Test career did not get off to a flying start but he gradually made a mark in a star studded Indian batting line-up. His breakthrough innings came in Adelaide, where he struck a magnificent hundred for India in conditions that had haunted the Indian batsmen throughout the series. He has scored hundreds against New Zealand, England and Australia at home since showing consistency and ambition. The only area that he needs to improve is batting in overseas conditions, as he struggled in England when India were routed 4-0. He is a young player and will definitely improve that record in the years to come.

Virat’s batting style is characterized by technical competence, compactness, orthodox shot selection, neat wrist work and efficient footwork. He is very good on the leg side and whips away anything that drifts towards his pads but is equally capable on the off side. His cover drive is a sight to behold in the modern day game of cricket. He has decimated Lasith Malinga frequently in his small career and takes a special pleasure in taking on the big names of the game. He inherits the traditional Indian’s batsman’s ability against spin. He uses his feet without fear and hesitation, and tries to play as straight as possible. He can read the variations from the hand and in the air, and has shown this ability against the likes of Saeed Ajmal, Sunil Narine and Ajantha Mendis.

Virat has been a leader for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League. His captaincy stint for the U-19 side marked him out as a future leader for Indian cricket. Most have expressed their doubts about his temperament as he often loses his cool on the cricket pitch, but he has rarely been involved in serious offences which are booked by the umpires and match referees. His aggression remains confined to exorbitant displays of anger on losing his wicket, overtly exuberant celebrations on claiming a dismissal (including some choice words that these days mark the spirit of celebration) and an occasional conversation with an opponent on the field.

Most will condemn him for this behaviour and find him incapable of leading the side, especially after ‘captain cool’ Dhoni, who is the epitome of composure and psychological strength in modern day cricket. However, there is a different dimension to this argument. Virat Kohli is not a ‘bad boy’ of the game like some other players in history were; he is merely a young lad who is expressive and overtly enthusiastic at times. His post-match interviews in the IPL are testament to the fact that he can be gracious in defeat but he prefers going down fighting. He is a player in the mould of Sourav Ganguly rather than Rahul Dravid (temperamentally), a leader in the mould of Ricky Ponting rather than MS Dhoni.

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