New Delhi: On the Friday before last, as Sachin Tendulkar left the field to a standing ovation and a river of tears at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, Virat Kohli was the next man walking out to bat.
He hit a boundary off the first ball he faced, but it didn’t seem to register on anyone’s mind, such was the glow of the man who had just walked off the ground.
A day later, as Tendulkar strode to the pavilion with his face hidden under his white floppy hat, trying to hide the tears that flowed upon the conclusion of his journey as an international cricketer, the man wiping away a tear immediately behind him was Kohli.
A few minutes later, as he had done after the World Cup victory at the same venue in 2011, Kohli helped hoist the little legend above the other teammates, security personnel and random hangers-on and take him around the ground on a lap of honour.
These three moments are strangely poetic, for Kohli is the man who has replaced Tendulkar as the carrier of the expectations of a billion on his shoulders every time he walks out to bat.
It's true that the primary theatre of Tendulkar’s magnificence was ODI cricket, where he pushed the boundaries of the humanly possible far into the stratosphere, but unlike his slow start in the format, Kohli has got off the blocks in a mad dash, and looks poised to obliterate the master’s seemingly unattainable records.
As the Indian team prepares to face the West Indies in the second ODI in Visakhapatnam, Kohli, at the age of 25 years and 19 days, will be playing his 121st match in the format. That means, fitness and form permitting, Kohli could break Tendulkar’s record of 463 ODIs, especially given the frequency at which India play ODIs.
With 5,005 runs under his belt, he is realistically the only man within reach of the master’s 18,426. His 17 centuries are 32 shy of Tendulkar’s record.
But what is scarier for bowlers is the fact that his average is a mind-boggling 52.13, and he is three years short of the 28-year mark that, according to general consensus among the cricketing elite, begins the prime five-year phase of a batsman’s career.
There has been no shortage of game-changers in ODI cricket — be it the fear that Vivian Richards instilled in his opponents, the street-fighter instincts of Ricky Ponting, the poetry of Brian Lara or the all-round greatness of Jacques Kallis. But Kohli the batsman is fast rising above all these legends not only because of statistics but, like Tendulkar, in terms of the impact on the game and in the hearts of fans.
A master of the big chase, Kohli has a rare hunger to finish off the job before walking into the pavilion, and the wherewithal to tailor his approach to the nature of the job at hand. And that is exactly what’s making him better than the best.
Reproduced from Mail Today. Copyright 2013. MTNPL. All rights reserved.
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