Though Tendulkar is still way ahead statistically, Virat Kohli’s recent achievements have been so extraordinary as to merit a comparison with the ‘God’ of cricket
Mumbai and Delhi are two cities that have dominated the Indian cricket scenario like no other, since decades. While the former has produced legendary batsmen like Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar and was called the batmen factory of India, the latter has not been behind with the likes of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag. But the dominance of Mumbai now stands challenged by Virat Kohli, single-handedly.
Not long ago, it seemed practically impossible to better Tendulkar’s mammoth record that includes a century of centuries and 34,000 runs in international cricket. Kohli, lately, has shown that Tendulkar’s record is surmountable, with 61 centuries under his belt.
Alvin Kallicharran, legendary West Indies captain, called Kohli as ruthless as Viv Richards. “In my days there was Viv Richards, today there’s Kohli,” Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was a legendary fast bowler, had commented Sourav Ganguly is of the view that Kohli was “very close” to being the greatest batsman of all time in one day cricket. He considers Tendulkar and Kohli the two best batsmen in one day cricket, at present.
Kohli remains, essentially, a typical Delhi boy — he still longs for Ram ke Chole Bhature in west Delhi’s Rajouri Garden where he grew up in a middle-class Punjabi family. He is, perhaps, the most influential cricketer or sportsperson that the capital has produced.
He’s known not to meddle in the affairs of the management and selectors, but his words carry a lot of weight — very hard to defy.
His lifestyle, veganism, fairy-world-like wedding with leading Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma — everything he does makes big news. Despite all the fanfare and media glare , Kohli leads a very disciplined life. None of it dislodges him from his focused life.
In the past, a comparison between Tendulkar and Kohli was considered unfair to both of them. Sachin — considered the God of cricket — should not be made part of a petty debate. And for a youngster like Kohli, it was rather unjust to be compared to a legend. But Kohli having played more than 200 one-day matches with a score of more than 10,000 runs, the comparison is bound to be made.
After 205 innings in one-day cricket matches, Kohli has scored more runs with a better average and strike rate; he scored more hundreds and fifties than Tendulkar. The only parameter in which Tendulkar is slightly better than Kohli is that he has had a higher percentage of India’s runs than Kohli after their respective 205 innings, but not far from each other, both hovering around the 17 per cent mark.
Tendulkar was not the best of skippers, while Kohli, apart from scoring at an unprecedented rate, leads from the front and is known to be intense, fairly animated, emotionally charged and someone who freely expresses his anger on and off the field. Play to win — is his attitude.
Kohli has been a much better run chaser than his childhood idol Tendulkar — he has scored more runs at a faster rate than Tendulkar, if we compare similar stages in their careers. Kohli secured a win on 22 out of 28 occasions where he chased a target, but Tendulkar could only seal a victory on 13 out of 15 occasions where he led a run chase. But those who argue in favour of Tendulkar, say that he was part of a weaker team in general, compared to the current team, which has a bunch of confident, younger, and athletic lads, who carry a certain attitude and self-belief.
In Test cricket, Kohli’s dominance is absolute in modern times. For instance, Kohli took 72 tests to score 2,400 in 123 innings, which is the second fastest, next to late Australian cricketer Don Bradman, who took only 66 to achieve the feat. Kohli is ahead of Tendulkar in most of the parameters, but Tendulkar had the advantage of starting early. Sachin had already played 72 tests when he was only 26 years of age, while Virat is currently aged 30.
It all started in 1998 (nine years after Tendulkar joined the Indian team) when Kohli’s father, Premkumar Kohli, took both his sons — Vikash and Virat — to Raj Kumar Sharma, a cricket coach at West Delhi Cricket Academy. Kohli was 10 years old then.
Just 10 years later, he became part of the Indian team, and as they say, rest is history. Recently, Rajkumar Sharma said: “You be assured. You will see him playing for India for the next 10 years. He will not retire before the age of 40 as his appetite to make runs will not satiate before that.” Age is not a limitation when it comes to super fit and super disciplined Kohli.
Not only has Delhi attained sort of a dominant place in the scheme of Indian cricket, owing to the IPL, cricket seems to have democratised now. Talented players from smaller cities and India’s vast hinterland have made it to the national squad.
Mahinder Singh Dhoni is a good example. Lately, Uttar Pradesh has been providing a breed of good fast bowlers. Not to ignore southern India —Rahul Dravid VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath are from Karnataka — and Bengal tiger, Saurav Ganguly.
But some sceptics would say that Delhi cricket is riddled with internal politics and monetary issues more than talent. Unmukt Chand, who lifted the U-19 World Cup trophy, was axed from the Delhi team, which corroborates the fact that all is not well. But Kohli stands out as the most notable exception. An exception that becomes the rule.
He’s an inspiration for a whole generation. His first coach Rajkumar Sharma was keen on becoming the chief coach of Delhi’s Ranji Trophy team. It was South Africa’s all-rounder Lance Klusener, who was made the consultant coach and chief coach’s job went to Delhi’s former captain, Mithun Manhas. Despite the kind of influence Kohli wields, “He never interferes with the administration,” says a functionary in the Delhi Cricket association who has played with Kohli.
While Delhi boasts about Kohli, Mumbaikars are worried that Kohli may attain the unattainable: better Tendulkar’s cricket records.