Heading into the Indian Premier League (IPL), Virat Kohli did not have a single century in the shortest format of the game, now he has four. It is just a peaking of form that has been on the upswing since the turn of the year.
Kohli has now amassed 1490 runs since January with an average of 99.33 in 2016. His knock of 113 off 50 balls in Royal Challengers Bangalore’s 82-run victory (D/L method) over Kings XI Punjab on Wednesday also made him the only batsman to smash four centuries in one season of the IPL taking his total tally of runs to 4002, most by any batsman to have played in the league.
More than numbers, Kohli’s purple patch has brought to fore consistency that has never been seen before in the shortest format of the game that allows little room for a player to get his eye in.
Kohli has been consistently notching up high scores since January, Known more for his stroke-play than big-hitting prowess; Kohli is also changing the demands from a batsman in this format. His knocks seldom see massive sixes. He instead focuses on finding gaps and aims for boundaries. He has managed to cut out the risk of dismissal and has yet managed to keep the runs flowing.
In the last couple of years, T20 cricket has been dominated by only a few batsmen. Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers are some of the names that keep cropping up regularly with high-scoring knocks associated with them.
But, even these swashbuckling batsmen have hardly come close to Kohli’s consistency. It can be gauged by their performance in the World T20 and now in the IPL.
Gayle grabbed headlines for his unbeaten hundred against England in the opening stages of the tournament. He however, didn’t do much after with a spate of single-digit scores. Even in the IPL, the Jamaican has yet to set the stage on fire.
De Villiers too had a lackluster World T20. His only decent knock (64) came against lowly Afghanistan. Otherwise, the innovative batsman struggled to convert starts into big knock through the tournament. His bat has only started buzzing since the IPL began. His partnership with Kohli has been one of the key attractions of the league. But, it is apparent, that De Villiers has been left to play second fiddle to the Indian.
Kohli, 27, has been at it since India’s tour of Australia in January. His consistency is even starker if knocks in other formats are also considered. In the one-dayers down under he scored 381 runs in five ODIs. It included two centuries, one half century and a 90-plus knock.
He followed it with knocks of 90*, 59* and 50 in three T20Is right after. He took a break during India’s three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka, but returned with the same vigour. He produced another fine performance in the Asia Cup, where he dug India out from tricky situations in quite a few instances that led to their eventual triumph.
In all these knocks, his most eye-catching performances have come in high-stakes games. His knocks in two clashes against Pakistan, later against Australia and then West Indies in the semifinal of the World T20, have only added to the ever-building aura around him. It is a mental state that sportsmen yearn to achieve through their careers. It appears Kohli is in that ‘special zone’.
While the IPL may not match the Asia Cup and World T20 in terms of pressure, but it is important to note that here Kohli is performing with the added responsibility of captaincy.
Kohli’s performances have now made it difficult to rule out comparisons with batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar any longer. In a recent interview Kohli said, that his form has been good for year, but Tendulkar kept his bat ticking for over two decades.
It is now for us to wait and watch if the Delhi-lad can emulate Tendulkar’s longevity. He has so far proved it in the short-term and the shortest format. It will be interesting to note if he can maintain the high standards over a long period of time and more importantly in the longest format of the game.