Billions have aspired to be like Sachin Tendulkar. Only one has been able to emulate him the closest.
A few more things need to be done by Virat Kohli to be seated beside the man considered God by most — have at least a 15-year career if not more, break Tendulkar’s 100-century record, play a restrained Sydney like Test innings where no boundaries come between point and extra cover and show a befitting humility.
Unacceptable it may sound but the current Virat Kohli’s consistency of scoring surpasses the kind Tendulkar had shown at the peak of his career. And we don’t even know if at 27, Kohli is experiencing the form of his life. There is no sign of denouement, not even plateauing in this Kohli graph. That he would be something was apparent within the first few years of Kohli’s debut.
He averages a century every four Tests and has raced to 25 centuries in 171 ODIs, a record even Tendulkar didn’t have at that age.
But Kohli strikes as a player never seen before due to the recent spate of scores he has had to his name. He is the first to reach 4000 runs in IPL, has the most number of centuries in a single edition and 11 scores of 75 or more in Twenty20s this year. The runs can be explained by the fact that there is probably no one better than Kohli on the off-side, specifically through the covers, right now.
And he is also blessed with wrists that can flick the ball anywhere between midwicket and fine-leg.
But where Kohli scores above his peers and former players is in fitness. It’s not the visual changes like his chiseled face and those tattooed rippling arms however that are being discussed here.
‘Eat, sleep and train’
Within the last two years or so, Kohli has elevated his stamina to a maniac level. And it has been achieved through a boring but fruitful regime of ‘eat, sleep and train’. He doesn’t over train at the nets.
In fact he didn’t even touch the bat before Wednesday’s game. A fit body though has been keeping Kohli in such a zone where he can do anything he wants to and get away with it.
The obvious effects too are for everyone to see. A hare between the wickets and while fielding, not for once has Kohli been seen trying to catch his breath.
What amalgamates his fitness and technique is Kohli’s resolve to win every match that he is part of. His emotions too speak of the same will. Pumping his fists, shouting ‘come on’ and some other expletives, no one celebrates like Kohli.
Hunger to win
And when his team loses, no one looks as broken as Kohli. Wednesday was the perfect example where Kohli’s hunger to win, imperious technique and fitness overcame a serious hand injury to produce the most devastating innings in recent times.
A webbing injury that requires seven stitches can be a debilitating factor for a bottom-handed player like Kohli. Advances in medical technology ensure lesser pain but can’t reduce the discomfort.
Kohli however decided to not give it any thought. “I didn’t hit any balls because I was injured, but when I settled down, I thought I shouldn’t think about my stitches. When I got the flow going, the pain went away and I was able to play shots,” said Kohli after the match.
India’s cricket history have had instances where injuries that have ruled out important players at times when their teams needed them the most. The few who have ignored pain have their names etched in history. Like Kapil Dev who took pain-killing injection to take 5/28 and help India defend 143 against Australia in 1980-81. All eleven Indian players bowled in the Antigua Test in 2002 but Anil Kumble will be the lasting memory of that Test for showing the guts to bowl with a broken jaw. Kohli is cut from the same cloth, only with a better fitness level.
To him, there is no off-switch while playing. “T20s is just three hours a day. You still have 21 hours away, so why relax on the field?,” he said. He has admitted to have surprised himself. But as long as he maintains the fitness and thirst to win, it will be hard to stop Kohli from breaking every record his God owns.