There is a long way to go before overall comparisons sound reasonable, but as India skipper Virat Kohli heads into his 50th Test, statistics show he might just be ahead of his hero Sachin Tendulkar in terms of effectiveness at this special mark.
Not only has the India captain scored more runs than Tendulkar did in his first 50 Tests, he has also featured in more wins and hit more centuries to help India stay unbeaten.
In one-day cricket, Kohli has already established himself as one of the best ever batsmen. He has 26 centuries, averages around 53, has a strike rate of 90 plus and a fantastic win-loss ratio whenever he scores big. Not even Tendulkar possessed such a record at that stage of his ODI career.
But Test cricket is a completely different where the pitch, quality of opposition and even teammates coming into the equation.
For the first decade of his career, Tendulkar was the main pillar of India’s batting. Significantly, he played 32 of his first 50 Tests away from home, including some one-sided affairs in England and Australia. To score 11 hundreds and average almost 50 even before turning 25 underlined Tendulkar’s genius.
Kohli came into the side at a time when the presence of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, besides Tendulkar and MS Dhoni, ensured he wasn’t thrust into the limelight straightaway.
But when it finally happened, during the 2014 tour of Australia where MS Dhoni shocked everyone by announcing his retirement, Kohli didn’t back out, having already been accorded the status as the team’s batting leader.
Seven out of Kohli’s 13 Test centuries, including two double centuries against West Indies and New Zealand, have come in the last 23 months. And it’s not only about Kohli’s big knocks.
Had it not been for his gritty 88 in Delhi in 2015, India would have faltered in their bid to set South Africa an impossible target in the final Test, eventually winning on a sluggish pitch.
Similarly crucial was his 45 against New Zealand in Kolkata last month, freeing up Rohit Sharma and Wriddhiman Saha to score fifties on a tricky pitch. And then there was the unbeaten 49 in Rajkot where Kohli grinded it out against England to salvage a draw.
Along with the confidence Kohli exudes with every stroke through covers, he has also personified India’s defiance and zeal to win in recent years. That has been the biggest takeaway from Kohli’s career so far.