Just a few days have elapsed since the comprehensive announcement about the schedule of World Cup 2015 was made. No overwhelming buzz was generated, as expected, for a tournament that is 18 months away.
The interest levels currently (for an Indian fan) aren’t the greatest either with India just finishing an ODI series in Zimbabwe and no big ticket international cricket event scheduled in the next two months. Amid these circumstances, it would be a decent academic exercise to comprehend where the Indian team stands in the build-up to the 2015 global event.
Of all the players who will hog the limelight in that process, Virat Kohli is one name which will definitely feature more often. An ODI average of 49.72 (108 innings), a T20I average of 34.87 (18 innings) and a Test career that promises to blossom – average of 41.96 (31 innings); in a short span Virat has translated from a dynamic under-19 skipper to a mainstay in the Indian batting line-up.
Beyond statistics, it is the number and nature of ‘match-winning’ knocks which have swelled the respect associated with his name in international cricket. He has been a prolific run-getter for India in the coloured jersey and a decent starter in the Test avatar, but how good is Virat Kohli amid the mix of top batsmen in world cricket today?
Virat stands on top of the list of run-getters with 2422 runs in ODIs in the last 2 years, boasting an average of 56.32 with 10 tons! In winning causes, this stat gets brighter – 9 tons at an average of 81.75 with an aggregate of 1962 runs; the next best in line – Dilshan, more than 600 runs away.
These numbers are simply stunning for somebody who is just 24. Comparisons for a rising name are inevitable in sports and likewise Virat has been compared to Tendulkar in his early days. In the current pool though, the likes of Cook, Amla, Clarke and Sangakkara will find a way into the top batsmen list across formats; Virat has a few things to prove before he can claim a stake in that bracket.
Yes, his Test numbers aren’t phenomenal, but they aren’t shoddy for a number 5 batsman; his T20I sample size is too little to draw inferences and 30.55% of his ODI knocks have been against Sri Lanka, but given the way he is batting, it isn’t unlikely that his statistics will enhance their outreach in every sphere soon.
What remains unanswered is his ability to score runs in seaming conditions in a 5-day game, under pressure and under the ‘limelight’. So far in his brief Test history, he has been to West Indies and Australia only. Like natural discourse he found it difficult to match profile description with performances in the initial phase.
At the end of the list though there was a spark which came just in time to salvage what could have been an inauspicious period for his Test career. He has the armoury to adapt to conditions, but what leaves space for anticipative scrutiny is his mental strength over a period of time.
The timeline of Virat’s progress in the mainstream cricket has been close to the ideal path over the last 6-7 years. He was an uncelebrated cog in India’s 2011 World Cup win and will probably be India’s pivot in 2015.
The attitude of attack being best form of defence is there, and so is the element of leadership at the highest level; what will determine the magnitude of his progress is his temperament with respect to his personal form.
Sportspersons have their share of ups and downs, but there’s only one highest peak and only one lowest trough. We don’t know whether Virat is nearing the tallest region of his career contour chart or has entered that zone, but if he is in that phase, he ought to extract the maximum possible yield.
The fixtures calendar has four major ‘away’ tours lined up for India over the next year and a half and will be a tricky test for an untested pool of youngsters.
Virat has the potential to excel and lead such a group of players in tougher terrains. For him though, an outstanding ‘away’ tour in the next 15 months is a necessity to step up the next level of batsmanship.