“What a memorable moment. With the greatest ever, Sir @vivrichards56. Words of gold from him. #Grateful #Memorable,” tweeted India Test skipper Virat Kohli after meeting West Indies legend Sir Vivian Richards at St Johns, Antigua.
Richards obliged Kohli with a few photographs. In one of the pictures, Kohli listened to Richards’ advice like a good disciple. The 27-year-old is usually compared with Sachin Tendulkar, but Kohli’s body language, his aggression on the field and his batting style is similar to that of Richards’. No wonder, why each word spoken by Richards was weighed in gold by Kohli.
From 1974-1991, Richards dominated in all formats with aggressive batting. Richards faced a stiff challenge of quick bowlers such as Richard Hadlee, Dennis Lillee, Imran Khan, Kapil Dev and Jeff Thomson. The West Indian never wore a helmet and demolished every quality attack that came his way. In Tests, he batted with an average of 50.23 and scored 8540 runs in 121Tests, including 23 centuries. His ODI average of 47 in 187 games put him in the top 15 batsmen in the world.
Kohli was just three years old when Richards retired. But Kohli, the batsman, could be termed as Richards’ mirror image. Kohli’s Test career began the same way as Richards. Both of them had an average debut but picked up. Richards scored his first Test century in his second Test in Delhi in 1974, Kohli in his eighth at Adelaide against Australia in 2012.
Similar batting style
Richards loved playing on the on-side and would pick his spot quickly to send the ball racing to the boundary. Any bowler who pitched the ball on the middle-stump, Richards produced a whiplash of a stroke. He was strong on the cut and pull, and drove nicely through the cover. Richards was never hit on the head with a bouncer and judged the bounce correctly to play the pull and the hook.
Vivian Richards shares words of wisdom with the Indian Cricket team. pic.twitter.com/6xwvtfAa3k— CricFit (@CricFit) July 19, 2016
Kohli is an on-side player, and equally strong at driving and horizontal strokes. In Australia in 2015, Kohli drove Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood on the rise. He scored four centuries in as many Tests and answered the barrage of short pitched deliveries aggressively.
“I love watching Virat Kohli bat. He looks to me like an individual of my own heart. I love his aggression, and [he has] serious passion that I used to have. He reminds me of myself,” Richards said in 2013.
One of the best features of Richards batting was his dominating nature. He dealt aggression with aggression. In 1980, Australian pacer Len Pascoe bowled consecutive bouncers to Richards. The West Indian ducked to each one of them and even teased Pascoe. Richards punished every lose delivery and never let any bowler put him under pressure.
Richards never blinked looking into the bowlers’ eye. Occasionally, Richards took the duel to another level by walking the bowler to his run-up after swatting him for a cracking boundary. Kohli might not chew any gum, might not have a swagger of Richards, but he is fearless. Like Richards.
In 2015 at Adelaide, Johnson welcomed Kohli with a quick bouncer that hit Kohli on the helmet. Kohli got up and made an eye-contact with Johnson. He ended up making a century in the game and Johnson was punished. Against Pakistan during the 2016 WT20, Kohli dominated pacer Mohammad Amir at Mohali and won India the match.
“Some of his (Kohli) batting reminded me of Viv -- like the way the great man dominated all formats of the game he played. He is an ‘in your face kind of batsman,” Ravi Shastri had said about Kohli. Be it Tests, ODI or T20s, Kohli is on top. With 25 centuries in ODIs, Kohli’s average is 51.51. It is 58.60 in T20Is.
Weak against out-swing
Both, though, had a similar fault in batting. Both were weak on the outgoing ball. Hadlee picked Richards’ twice, once in an ODI in 1980, and secondly at a first class game in Perth. Kohli struggled against England pacer James Anderson in swinging conditions in 2014. Both played half-cock to an out-swinging delivery and their bats hanged away from their bodies, letting the ball snick. But Kohli ironed the flaw and has been playing well against out-swing.
At 27, Richards was well ahead of Kohli in Tests with an average of 58 but the Indian, overtakes the legend in ODIs. With the four-Test series starting on July 21, Richards will keenly follow Kohli’s progress. Kohli, on the other hand, will look to better his Test record by acting on Richards’ advice.