Kohli: Carving a niche for himself

India and Dhoni are now being rewarded for keeping the faith with Kohli.

Virat Kohli celebrates after scoring his 11th one-day international century against Pakistan at Dhaka. (AFP/Getty …

Virat Kohli continues to add to his growing reputation as one of the finest young cricketers in the game currently everytime he goes into bat. It hardly makes any difference to him if India are setting or chasing a score, such is his confidence and self-belief; though he appears to be at his best in pressure situations.

Kohli has hit seven of his 11 ODI centuries when India have batted second, and in these 48 innings he has scored 2336 runs at an average of 58.40 and strike rate of 87.55. In the 34 innings he has played when India have batted first, Kohli has scored 1254 runs at an average of 40.45 and strike rate of 84.10. These numbers tell their own story and make a strong case for Kohli to be considered amongst the best finishers in the history of ODIs.

Kohli has scored three centuries in the four innings that he has played in the last three weeks; and two of those tons were scored in high-pressure situations when India was chasing 300+ targets.

The first of those was in Hobart on 28 February 2012, when India had to chase 321 runs inside 40 overs against Sri Lanka to keep alive their hopes of reaching the finals of the Commonwealth Bank Series. Kohli (133* from 86 balls) was at his aggressive best and put the Sri Lankan bowlers, especially pace spearhead Lasith Malinga to the sword; and he also shared match-winning partnerships with Gautam Gambhir and Suresh Raina as India overhauled the target inside 37 overs.

Kohli was once again at the forefront when India overhauled the target of 330 set by Pakistan at Dhaka to complete their highest successful chase in ODIs despite the loss of an early wicket. The 23-year-old from Delhi blazed his way to a career-best 183 from 148 balls in a calculated and unhurried manner, in what was a high-pressure match. Kohli's knock included 56 singles, 12 twos, one three, 22 boundaries and one six; and he scored 70 runs on the off side and 113 on his favoured leg side. His range of shots included the extravagant punches through the covers as well as the well-timed flicks. It's no surprise then that Kohli is considered to be amongst the best batsmen in ODIs currently.

While he is often and rightly accused of being unnecessarily aggressive with his body language and celebrations on the field; he is an altogether different player with the bat as he plays a brand of cricket that is exciting, calculated, assertive and effective irrespective of the match situation.

Pakistan has one of the best bowling attacks in the world currently, but Kohli was hardly troubled by either the opposition's pacers or the spinners. In his brilliant 183, Kohli scored 42 runs from the 36 deliveries he faced from Umar Gul; 36 from the 29 deliveries he faced from Saeed Ajmal; 28 from the 25 deliveries he faced from Shahid Afridi. Kohli was though most severe on Wahab Riaz, who he hit for seven boundaries and his only six as he scored 40 runs from the 17 deliveries bowled to him by the left-arm pacer.
Kohli plays a shot during the Asia Cup match against Pakistan. (AFP/Getty Images)Kohli also has that rare ability to adapt and change the gears of his batting at a moment's notice as well as keeping a cool head irrespective of the asking rate; and this was at full display against Pakistan, where he initially played second fiddle to Sachin Tendulkar before coming into his own. At the start of his innings, Kohli was happy rotating the strike, finding the gaps and keeping the scoreboard ticking over as he played himself in and kept India in check with the required rate.

Kohli scored his 50 from 52 deliveries and 100 from 97 before opening out in the batting powerplay which was taken in the 35th over with India still needing 115 runs to win. He hit Riaz for three consecutive boundaries in the 42nd over, the first of which brought up his 150 from 131 balls. Kohli's last 33 runs came off only 17 deliveries, and when he was finally dismissed, India only needed 12 more runs to win. Such has been Kohli's confidence and ability to excel in India's chases of late that captain MS Dhoni, who is a handy finisher himself, has hardly been required to play that role.

Kohli scored 1381 runs, including four centuries from 34 ODIs at an average of 47.62 in 2011; he has already scored 730 runs, including three centuries and three half-centuries from 11 matches at an average of 73 in 2012 and is well on course to exceed his last year's tally.

He has always been a confident and self-assured player, but that would have taken a battering had Dhoni listened to the critics and dropped Kohli from the Test team after his initial failures in Australia. Kohli made the most of the opportunity as he scored 44 and 75 at the WACA Ground, and he later said it was a pivotal moment in his fledgling Test career. He then took that confidence into the fourth match at the Adelaide Oval and scored his maiden Test century (116) even as India suffered their second consecutive whitewash in an away Test series. India and Dhoni are now being rewarded for keeping the faith with Kohli, and the youngster has delivered time and again, and in style.

Kohli, who has made the No. 3 position his own in ODIs, also has the temperament and technique to succeed the recently-retired Rahul Dravid as India's one-drop batsman in Tests as well. More importantly, he has realised the importance of that position in the batting order. "The No.3 position is very important. I value my wicket more now. I set a platform and hope to cover it… Stay there till the end… If one is batting well at the other end, I let him take over… If not, I try to take control," Kohli said after his match-winning knock against Pakistan.

And, though he is already being spoken of as a future India captain, Kohli is happy to bide his time and keep contributing to the team's success. Kohli is certainly doing his fair share to help India win matches, even as he continues to carve a niche for himself as one of the best finishers and complete batsmen in ODIs.

More on Kohli:
Kohli-inspired India spank Pakistan
Virat's evolution, one ton at a time
I value my wicket more now, says Kohli
We did not know how to stop Kohli, admits Misbah
Kohli’s incandescence provides some oxygen
India finds a new hero in Virat Kohli
Courage and Determination Under Pressure
I see Kohli as a future captain of India: Shastri