It was not just his punches but also a loud mouth that contributed to the legend of Muhammad Ali. Football’s history is dotted with incidents of anger getting the best out of many players over the years. Dennis Lillee’s bowling was incomplete without his trademark intimidation and sledging. Tennis too had John McEnroe.
For better or worse, anger has had a strange association with sports. Thankfully for Virat Kohli, anger hasn’t come between him and his success with the bat. It might have come at the cost of being labelled the ‘angry young man’ of Indian cricket but Kohli doesn’t seem concerned because it possibly is fuelling his enviable form.
What makes Kohli special right now is his conviction with the bat. But the seeds of the run machine Kohli were possibly sown in the Test series in Australia in 2015. Against the toughest team in a country where he had lost his cool in the past, Kohli scored four centuries that made it a closer competition than anticipated.
In the same series came the unexpected responsibility of captaincy. It gave impetus to Kohli’s line of thought. He didn’t take much time to impose his aggression on the team, even if it meant going for a pace-heavy bowling attack on a docile Fatullah pitch.
And then there is that unquenchable thirst to win. It might be early days but what separates Kohli from previous Indian captains is his desire to win everything at any cost. Ever since he has been Test captain, India have won two out of three Test series --- 2-1 in Sri Lanka and 3-0 against South Africa at home. The only other time he is leading any team is in the IPL. So it isn’t surprising to see Royal Challengers Bangalore in the final.
Kohli’s challenge was to forge a unit that believed in winning just like he did. And as distant as it might seem now, his first century came in a losing cause against Gujarat Lions. Only when it boiled down to a situation where they had to win their last four matches to qualify for the playoffs did Kohli decide to bat out of his skin.
First, Kohli ensured along with AB de Villiers that Gujarat were batted out of the game at home. Had it not been for his crafty and unbeaten 75 in Kolkata, RCB could have been derailed. But they chugged on thanks to Kohli. Then came that unbelievable century in a 15-over game against Kings XI Punjab. Kohli then finished what he started by single-handedly anchoring a tricky chase against Delhi to seal the second position.
By leading the way with the bat, Kohli also managed get the best out of the limited bowling resources he had. He has a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude while handling the team. But that is also because of the confidence he exudes through his batting. He may have not breached the 1000 run mark but in the process Kohli made his team do the near impossible. Which is why despite RCB’s loss in the final, Kohli’s run with the bat this IPL will be talked about for a long time to come.