Many cricket lovers saw in Virat Kohli the reflection of Sachin Tendulkar after the Indian vice-captain’s classy yet brutal innings against Australia in a virtual quarter-final of the World T20 championship in Mohali on Monday.
Though Master Blaster Tendulkar remains the gold standard of batting in the post-Bradman era, Kohli’s latest masterclass prompted comparisons with his famous compatriot.
It took Kohli’s masterly knock to get India across the line final against the reigning 50-overs world champions.
He remained unbeaten after a sublime 82, burnishing his reputation as arguably the best chaser in limited-overs cricket with a knock that reminded many of Tendulkar’s 143 against Australia in a 1998 one-dayer at Sharjah dubbed “desert storm”. And praise poured in.
Australia captain Smith, while tipping his hat to a brilliant innings from India’s Virat Kohli, was left ruing his team’s middle overs misfire. Smith said Kohli’s knock was “seriously unbelievable”.
Warne was at the receiving end of Tendulkar’s wrath in that Sharjah match and 18 years since the contest, the Australian spin great saw Tendulkar’s shadow in Kohli’s latest knock.
“Great knock by @imVkohli Reminded me of one of your many special innings buddy,” Warne tweeted to his great rival Tendulkar after Kohli secured India a place in the semi-finals on Sunday.
“Of the modern players, I’ve always thought that Brian Lara was the best placer of the ball,” former Australia captain Ian Chappell told www.espncricinfo.com. “I think I have got Brian in second spot now.”
Kohli bejewelled his knock with two sixes and nine boundaries and sprinted tirelessly between wickets in a flawless display of limited overs batting under tremendous pressure.
He middled every ball, timed his shots with surgical precision and found gaps with eerie regularity to stamp his class.
The West Indian batting great was also bowled over by what he saw and requested videos of Kohli’s early days, hailing the Indian as the “best timer of a cricket ball” that he has seen.
At 27, Kohli stands on the brink of batting greatness with 36 international centuries against his name and averages of 44 in tests, 51 in one-dayers and 55 in Twenty20 matches.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Since Kohli’s international debut in a one-dayer against Sri Lanka eight years ago, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has closely watched the tattoo-wearing, blunt-speaking, heart-on-his-sleeve youngster transform into a mature match-winner.
Kohli hates the idea of an on-field confrontation that doesn’t include him and Dhoni argued it suits the player who succeeded him as India’s test captain.
“He will always be the same,” Dhoni said after the victory in Mohali. “He will be an aggressive character who will be ready to take on challenges and he will be aggressive on the field.
“But he will also improve. He is shifting in the right direction but he is a tremendous character. He should not lose his character because that’s what his strength is.”
It has been a fascinating transformation of a Delhi cricketer perceived initially as yet another brash brat from the streets of a city long accused of inculcating aggression in its youth.
Former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar said Kohli is currently the world’s best batsman and “beyond phenomenal”.
“At the moment he is got to be the best limited-overs batsman in the world. There is no question about it. There is not the slightest doubt about it because he is beyond phenomenal. He is something else,” Gavaskar told ‘NDTV’.
“Whatever little hair that I have, my hair was standing at attention watching the young genius. It was just mindblowing stuff,” he said.
“Look at the selflessness of the man...Lot of times when you play such big innings, you want to hit the winning runs. But there is he is, a complete, total team man. Thank god, he is playing for India,” he added.
“Kohli is the greatest chaser by far and I am saying this keeping in mind the great man Sachin Tendulkar,” Ganguly told India Today.
“Sachin was special but as far as chasing is concerned, Kohli has done better than Sachin. Kohli is unreal,” the former skipper said.
...And Sachin Tendulkar
The legend described Kohli’s innings as `special`. Coming from Tendulkar, it was indeed special.