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A Redemption For The Ages, A Statement Towards The Critics

August 28, 2018

Not long ago in Australia, a fearless no. 4 was lining up international cricket for the very first time as the captain of a test team. From the opposite end rushing came Mitchell Johnson with an absolute screamer of a short ball that rose exceedingly quick and crashed into the helmet giving the batsman no chance to duck. It was the welcome that would have left most of the people cowering in fear, but not Virat Kohli, for whom it was an opportunity to make his point. Thereafter as he went on to probe the Aussie bowling surgically in order to complete what is regarded as one of his best hundreds even today, he just stood tall with that helmet in his hand and pointed to the crest that Johnson had smashed earlier – statement made.

Now in England, there was a chance for another statement to be made. Kohli’s stunning record had one slump – his woeful record in red-ball-cricket under English conditions. During India’s tour of 2014 he was found guilty of fishing outside the off stump on so many occasions. James Anderson in particular had him in all sorts of trouble as India’s brightest batsman was exposed again and again in front of England’s spear-head. This is something that was always spoken about as Kohli’s major chink. When he made hundreds in Australia, West Indies, Sri Lanka and South Africa, there was always someone to remind him that England was yet to be conquered. When he made the scores of 167 and 235 against England, they still reminded that it wasn’t the swinging English conditions. So in many ways it was time for Kohli to make another statement.

Virat didn’t disappoint. In just three matches that have been played so far he has wiped out any doubt there could be about his weakness against the swinging Duke ball. In the first innings of the first test at Edgbaston, he turned what seemed to be a rather laboured knock till the half-way-stage into a magnificent 149 and followed it up with a fine 51 in the second where he looked in total control till he got out. After a substandard show at Lord’s he once again turned up at Trent Bridge adding 200 more runs to his tally where his innings scores read 97 and 103. In these 6 innings he already has a brace of fifties and hundreds under his belt and with this ongoing red-hot form more is expected from him in the upcoming 4. And this time there’s no room for any excuse either. The pitches have been as hard as any and the attack being on par with the best of the contemporary. But the Indian captain stood head and shoulders above, not only his teammates but also the English batsman. So much so that Joe Root and Co can actually pick up some things from Kohli in order to break their own slump.

What Kohli has also done with his feats, at least for the time being, is to put to rest the debate about “top 4”. Be it from the experts’ opinion who in recent times have mostly referred Kohli as the best batsman in the world or the social media that is currently unanimous to announce the top ranked test batsman at present as the greatest of this generation – you can sense that the ODI chase-master is well and truly on his way to become the undisputed king in white shirts as well. The kind of benchmark he has set already looks unattainable for Kane Williamson, Joe Root and Steve Smith because it has a steady upward climbing trait in it.

Williamson, for all his class and nonchalance, is pulled down with his numbers in South Africa, England and India. Root’s flamboyance at making fifties gets buoyed down by his inconsistency at converting them. Steve Smith perhaps will find it difficult to rub away the sandpaper saga. So for Virat Kohli, the world is now at his feet. But it is not that he turned up and decided to become the world’s best batsman. First of all he admitted his mistakes, because he believes that if he doesn’t do so, he would perhaps never work on that. And then he transformed his game. Several changes were spotted. He batted outside the crease to compensate for lateral movement, cut out the drives, during first 30 odd balls of an innings he looked to leave everything outside off and defend anything that is close to his body. At this point his main scoring shot remained flick and he was able to do that as he started walking across the stumps as well. Although he abstained from those expensive drives initially, when he started seeing the ball better, as usually he nailed it better than anyone else. His unimpeachable work ethic has paid off and with such transformations he has transformed Indian cricket too. When he is amongst the runs his team looks far more assured – it was seen in the first test where Kohli had kept his team in the game singlehandedly till the time he was in the crease and it appeared to be even more prominent in the third where a victory has not only kept the series alive, but has also fueled the Indian hopes that they can dare to dream of a timeless comeback. It doesn’t matter though whether that comeback happens or not, but one thing is for sure, with Virat Kohli, you can now safely forget the 2014 days and move on. And that was the statement we all wanted him to make, a statement that puts all the debates and doubts to rest, A statement that depicts a different Kohli, a beast, a deadlier Virat Kohli.

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