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A King’s miseries

India's Virat Kohli
India's Virat Kohli

If India’s cricketing ‘God’ is Sachin Tendulkar, its ‘king’ would be Virat Kohli. Whereas Sachin Tendulkar was the calm, gentle ‘little master’ loved by all cricket fans alike player, Virat is the opposite. He’s the aggressive one – the ruthless warrior, often drawing criticism and vitriol from journalists and opposing fans.

His title – ‘king’ is, or at least was, befitting for a man of Kohli’s ambitious, ruthless, win-at-all-costs nature. These very qualities have stamped themselves into Virat's renowned batting style due to his insatiable hunger to be the best. As Kohli stated once, "I always wanted to be the best for sure". His drive provided him with a reservoir of competitive spirit and energy that made him stand apart.

As Gandhi, the founding father of India claimed, “Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision”. His intense drive aided him in displaying the greatness he was capable of.

His greatness can be summed up through just one accolade: 66 tons between 2010-19. Virat Kohli is undoubtedly the greatest player of the modern era. ICC selected him as its player of the 2010’s decade, and even gave Virat command over the 2010’s decade red-ball team.

Speaking about red-ball, Kohli is arguably India's greatest and most successful test captain. He has the most test caps and most wins – 68 and 40. But, undoubtedly, his most memorable achievement as captain was guiding India to their first test series victory in Australia. India becoming the first South Asian side to do so. But not once, but twice did he defeat Australia on their home soil (though he had to leave early for family matters).

Why was he King?

A king is recognised for his boldness, what he does and how he performs under moments of intense pressure and crisis. Their defining attitudes when defending their country, no matter the odds. The limited overs format, or white-ball cricket, usually presents a higher level of pressure and tests the aptitude and skill of even the best batsmen.

It was Virat’s excellence in the white-ball formats that earned him his title. He is the fastest to 8000, 9000 etc runs in ODI. Between 2016-18, Kohli was averaging 97 runs a game in ODI and in respect to T20I, Kohli is the second highest run scorer. By 2015, Kohli was the first cricket player maintaining an average of 50+ in T20I.

Still, the most memorable kings are those whose actions leave an immeasurable impact for years to come. Many previous Indian captains seemed to uphold Gandhi’s principle of passive resistance and played with utmost respect to their opponents. Kohli was unique. An Indian who is a fervent proponent of all-out aggression and domination. His philosophy created new-look India, a team that was fearless and daring in its approach. Moreover, he--was responsible for the development of players like KL Rahul, Pant, Shami who now are all, in their own right, world-class players.

On the other hand, Kohli’s self-belief and self-confidence as both player and leader is unmatched. He is second-to-none whilst chasing. In ODI’s, he has the most runs batting second; 7239, at an average of 68! His name finds itself amongst India’s highest chases in both ODI’s and T20I. In 2013, well before his prime, he steered India to their highest successful ODI chase, against Australia, with a swash-buckling 52 ball century. His career highs of 183 in ODI in 2012, and 94* in T20I in 2019 came about batting second.

Brown Patch?

There is an unwritten rule in sports. It is a bitter and cold truth – no matter how dominant a player is or how intimidating they are during their best years, no prime lasts forever.

There was a point during the best years of his career that Kohli seemed invincible. On Australian and South African bowling tracks, where sub-continental players often struggle, Kohli’s batting was unassailable. At the pinnacle of his career in 2017 Michael Vaughan was heard saying, “No shame in being beaten by a genius, Virat Kohli is a freak”.

Presently Kohli’s batting slump is concerningly not new news anymore. Some fans believe he won’t fully come back, and other batters are ‘praying’ for him. Some may argue he’s still in his prime – yet the signs are obvious he isn’t. For instance, his century drought stands at 950 days – him not being able to reach the ton mark since November 2019.

Recently, Kohli has also been stripped of his captaincy in both the red and white-ball formats. Kohli himself cited that the explanation for BCCI’s decision was his failure to secure any international trophy for India. His inability to marshal his troops to victory, as well as the psychological guilt, may have caused a series of batting performances that can only be labelled as ‘horrendous’ for a man of his standards. In the recent edition of the IPL Kohli averaged 22.73 across a span of 16 matches.

Even Virender Sehwag was caught saying, “The number of mistakes he has made this season, he probably has not made as many in his entire career”. Veterans are offering their sympathies for Kohli as Ponting argued: “It (bad form) will occur to all of us at some point.” But he, like many others, reiterated that Kohli will figure it out quickly.

But only Kohli can pull himself back from his exile and rise from his ashes to be crowned as the prince of Indian cricket once more.

The article has been written by Fasih Taqvi, currently an A-levels student of Economics and History at Froebel’s International School, Islamabad, Pakistan.