Virat Kohli may bristle at the mere suggestion that his performances rank with idol Sachin Tendulkar’s, but his power-packed show is even worthy of the ‘Big Three’ from India’s golden generation of batsmen.
Kohli will lead India into the final Test against England starting here on Friday, aiming to complete only the second 4-0 series victory achieved by the national team.
All eyes will be on the India skipper though as he has left millions of fans, in India and abroad, gushing after his latest exploit, a career-best 235 to clinch the fourth Test in Mumbai by an innings and 36 runs.
While his batting has produced the kind of impact Tendulkar had as he carried the nation’s dreams on his shoulders for over two decades, Kohli also seems to have taken a leaf out of the books of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.
While Kohli, who has led India to five Test series wins in a row, points out he needs to play at this level for many more years to even be spoken of in the same breath as Tendulkar, there are similarities.
Kohli, who has made Tendulkar’s Test No 4 spot his own, plays the game with the same intensity, is determined not to let a bowler outwit him in the same fashion a second time, and has shown thoroughness in preparation to iron out flaws besides the work he puts into his fitness.
After the 2014 flop in England, where he averaged 13.40, he sought out Tendulkar to iron out flaws outside the off-stump against swinging deliveries. The rise which started with the 2014-15 Australia Test tour has been phenomenal.
Without giving up on aggression --- he hit four centuries in IPL 2016 --- or the nerves of steel to be India’s ODI match-winner chasing totals under pressure, he has also begun to show the kind of patience for which Dravid was renowned.
In this series, he has refused to take the bait offered by the England bowlers, be it bouncers or a fifth stump line. He got away with a rare lapse, and was dropped by Adil Rashid in the second Test in Visakhapatnam after top-edging a hook.
Kohli has also found new calmness to shepherd the lower order, like Laxman.
Kohli stood firm in the first Test in Rajkot, ensuring a draw from a tricky position, remaining 49 not out after over two hours of stay. That was an example that the young skipper who swore by aggression can also tone down to save the day.
In Mumbai, he let No 9 Jayant Yadav express himself and match the skipper in scoring on the fifth morning on way to a superb century. The Laxman approach, never to farm the strike, was evident.
His amazing consistency --- Kohli has scored a double century in each of the last three Test series --- and image as youth icon is sure to draw fans in big numbers to the MA Chidambaram Stadium.