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Virat Kohli batted amazing in Centurion Test vs South Africa, stats don’t tell full story

Seen in context, Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli’s innings at Centurion vs South Africa cricket team was probably better than his previous 20 Test hundreds .

cricket Updated: Jan 18, 2018 11:49 IST
Amrit Mathur
Amrit Mathur
Hindustan Times
South Africa vs India,SA vs IND,Virat Kohli
Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli hits a boundary during his innings of 153 against South Africa cricket team at the SuperSport Park in Centurion.(Getty Images)

That stats don’t tell the full story was evident at Centurion. The scorebook duly recorded Virat Kohli’s 153 but the significance of the hundred was not captured. Also, stats are silent about the quality of Rohit Sharma’s runs. (SA vs IND, Centurion Test scorecard)

Seen in context, Virat Kohli’s innings was probably better than his previous 20 Test hundreds. India was one down, horribly singed by pace and Newlands was a Test Virat would personally want to erase from memory. Yet, he offered no excuses, no crib about the wicket or umpiring --- only a determined statement about ‘rectifying mistakes’ and batsmen stepping up to ‘show intent’.

He did all this with a spectacular innings of class and character. Kohli was defiant, disciplined and dominant while scoring what Dravid calls ‘tough runs’. Others scratched around, Kohli bossed the game to control the pitch and the situation. The distance between him and others is reflected by a stat: in four completed innings this series, nobody from the Indian top-5 reached 50.Kohli made 150.

If simple stats don’t do justice to Virat Kohli they excessively flatter Rohit Sharma. In the shorter format, Rohit is the badshah who scores big daddy double hundreds. In batsman-friendly conditions, he is a tiger. Against Sri Lanka, his ‘current form’ secured him a middle-order slot. Rohit Sharma’s performances are staggering yet questions remain: Is he as good as his numbers suggest?

While fans and followers obsess with stats, players use a different yardstick for judging each other. Batsmen are rated on ‘tadi’, the ability to subdue bowlers, conquer conditions and influence the outcome of matches. Measured this way, Viv Richards is Rajnikanth of batting, the undisputed king over the last 50 years. Not many saw Don Bradman or Garfield Sobers but, since television brought cricket into our homes, nobody matches Richards’ cool arrogance and authority.

Others scored more runs and had better averages but Richards spread fear among bowlers. Against him, they were more concerned about escaping punishment than getting him out. Richards had utter disrespect for bowlers and did not believe in treating the ball on its merit. Instead, he played the way he wanted and set his own standards. Such is his aura, in any list of all-time greats (compiled by SRT, SMG, Shane Warne and others) his name comes up first.

Like Richards, bowlers dreaded Sehwag, another champion who wrote his script and invented a special technical grammar. Sehwag started as a one-day player but became a Test opener where he broke every convention. Openers are taught to build an innings, see off the new ball and set the platform for middle-order batsmen.

Sehwag junked this wisdom and with an uncluttered mind and fearless intent, put bat to ball. Caution rejected, footwork not for him. Result: 23 Test hundreds, two triple centuries, Test strike rate 82. Sehwag just didn’t make runs --- he changed cricket and made India win.

Tiger Pataudi used to ask two standard questions when discussing a batting performance: Who was bowling, what was the wicket like? As someone who believed stats are misleading, Tiger would have agreed Virat’s 153 is a career-defining innings from a class player.

(Amrit Mathur is a senior cricket writer and has been with the Indian cricket team as manager)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author

First Published: Jan 18, 2018 11:26 IST