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Next year could decide Virat Kohli’s legacy in Indian cricket

Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli is only a short step away from greatness as a player and a leader, even as he continues reaching personal milestones.

cricket Updated: Dec 21, 2017 10:00 IST
Amrit Mathur
Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli brings raw energy and a relentless hunger for runs into the field.
Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli brings raw energy and a relentless hunger for runs into the field.(Getty Images)

Political leaders, people in public life and athletes strive for personal milestones and want to leave a footprint in history that outlives their active career. The question then is, in terms of sporting legacy where do our cricket idols sit?

Sachin Tendulkar stands for consistent excellence, he is the champion marathon runner who aced every race. While others climb Mount Everest once and return after a quick selfie, Tendulkars pitched his tent on the summit and bossed the game for 24 years. His legacy is of an exceptional player whose mind boggling numbers (34,000 international runs,100 hundreds) ensure his place in cricket’s all time great list. Tendulkar is also admired for extraordinary humility - someone so tall he breathed rarified air yet remained grounded.

Sunil Gavaskar was an artist who blunted fast bowlers with courage, getting in line and drawing straight lines with his bat. At another level a scientist who broke batting into small parts- movement back and across, swaying away from short balls- to construct a technique that was spectacularly pure, Gavaskar earned respect for Indian cricket. Seeing him bat, everyone acknowledged Indians could handle pace.

Kapil Dev owned flair and flamboyance, he brought fun and enjoyment into cricket. Remarkably free spirited, Dev performed impossible deeds with effortless ease --- 175 against Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup with India 5 down 27, hitting Eddie Hemmings for four successive sixes with India needing 24 to avoid a follow on. Dev is the hero who won India the World Cup and triggered the one-day revolution after 1983. Also, he smiled his way through 16 years of all-round brilliance.

Unlike him, Mahendra Singh Dhoni rarely smiles and is so composed one believes his blood pressure is permanently set at 120/80. Legend insists Dhoni does not understand ‘heat of the moment’. Dhoni’s amazing journey from cricket’s backwaters inspires kids to dream big. Also, he led India with supreme dignity and grace.

His successor, Virat Kohli, is only a short step away from greatness. As India’s No 4 he is a Ferrari zipping down the success highway, plundering runs at breakneck speed. Kohli switches formats as easily as Aamir Khan changes film roles.

What separates him from others is intensity, raw energy and the relentless hunger for runs. With Tendulkar, batting seemed God’s gift. Kohli is so consumed by the desire to succeed he seems to be battling himself more than the opposition.

Kohli is the first captain to put fitness ahead of cricket skills. In his view someone can’t be a cricketer without being an athlete. He has singlehandedly rebooted the mindset of players and his team, like Australia, plays to win. As Ravi Shastri said recently, it’s no more ‘time pass’.

Tiger Pataudi, India’s most loved captain, changed Indian cricket by uniting players, focusing on fielding and creating the ‘spin to win’ formula. Kohli’s legacy as captain is he embraced aggression and refused to compromise on fitness. With Kohli, this is Indian cricket’s Bob Beamon moment, a giant leap into the future.

With tours of South Africa, England and Australia lined up, the next 12 months will decide whether Kohli’s legacy, as player and captain, is as permanent as that of legends Tendulkar and Pataudi.

(Amrit Mathur is a senior cricket writer and has been involved with IPL in official capacity. The views expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author)