If you go by the exterior - the spikes, tattoos, swagger and arrogance, Virat Kohli epitomises the youth of 21st century India.
But the way he bats, especially in the first half of his innings, he's an antithesis of how the youth likes to bat in this age of T20.
These days, most
young men prefer to go after the bowling from the beginning and keep hitting till they last. It takes your breath away when it comes off, and looks woeful when it doesn't. But what's life without a little risk, is the new way of living.
Old school starter
Virat, on the contrary, is old-fashioned when it comes to constructing his innings. Regardless of his personal form, familiarity with the attack and conditions, he would start slowly, albeit confidently. At the beginning, every batsman is edgy and likes to get bat on ball and score a few to get going. This urge to get on with the game is stronger if you are in good form.
Hence, it must take immense self-control for Virat to resist that temptation every time he walks out to bat these days, and stick to the original plan of biding time. His self-control at the beginning of every innings is the primary reason for his consistency, for he hasn't allowed bad habits to creep in.
Exercising self-control would have been a lot easier for someone who doesn't have as many shots as Virat, and hence the self-denial has to be appreciated. Meticulous planning and diligent following of the plan is the common thread in most of his innings.
Conventional wisdom suggests that the bigger arc one's bat creates, the more power one generates. The arc starts from the top of the back-lift and finishes with the follow through after playing the shot. The best way to ensure the bigger arc is to allow the top hand to remain in control for as long as possible, and extend the arms fully (elbow not bent) after playing the shot.
Virat's bat swing is different from how it's mentioned in the coaching manuals. He has a relatively short back-lift and an even shorter follow-through.
But he generates phenomenal bat speed by just flicking his wrists at the point of contact, which in turn generates immense power. The flip side of such a bat-swing is that he's a bottom-hand dominated player, but, again, by delaying his strokes, he's found a way to be equally fluent through the off-side.
When I saw Virat for the first time, I was sceptical about his short front-foot stride. To make matters more complicated, the short stride was going far too across. Well, after scoring 13 ODI tons at No 3, he has proved that it works fine.
The writer is former India opener