Superman is that guy, who bats at number three for India and these numbers prove it.
The process is complicated. The bowling rhythm and delivery accuracy needs to be in perfect sync to extract the maximum out of the pitch. The match situation and fielding restrictions must be taken into account and the condition of the ball plays an important role too in determining how much sting the delivery will have upon impact. All of these variables, however, usually line up if a world class bowler decides to bowl a spell which is right up there with the best you could have possibly witnessed.
It usually pays off too, unless you are bowling to Virat Kohli defending a target. Because he is immortal while chasing and you know it with that look of true grit and steely eyes as he takes the stance every time there’s a figure to chase.
At this point, the stats and numbers are just ancillaries to the incredible batting we witness every time this guy makes his way to the pitch. Since the last two years he averages a Bradmanesque 96.40 in successful chases in ODIs and an unbelievable 166.50 in T20Is. But this is not what we see when he comes on to bat. It’s much more than that.
Take, for example, his performances in the T20 world cup and then the IPL where he single-handedly carried both India and RCB to the final stages of the competition. This has been his year by a very large margin with an accumulated 1667 runs from 28 matches at a staggering average of 79.38. And this is not including his exploits in the Indian Premier League where he scored 973 runs at an average of 81.08. So what is it that spurs this Delhi lad to transform into a run-scoring machine, especially when there’s a target to chase?
The answer lies in his upbringing and how it affected him, shaping up his personality over the years. Kohli has over the years stressed heavily on why his father’s untimely death was an important turning point in his career. And it’s really important to understand why because it is something which stirred something inside of him to achieve what he was really capable of.
“I still remember the night my father passed away as it was the hardest time in my life. But the call to play the morning after my father’s death came instinctively to me. For me, not completing a cricket game was equivalent to committing a sin. Importance that cricket holds in my life is above everything else,” Kohli said in an interview in early 2016.
“My father’s death gave me the strength to fulfill my dreams, and that of my father’s also,” he added.
And this is not the only time that he makes a reference to his father. Time and again, through social media posts and stories, it crops up too. It is as if every time he goes on the field he wants his father to know that he is as successful as he would have ever imagined it for him. He wants to feel those acknowledgements that look in his father’s eyes every time he chases down that target. It’s as if he’s chasing that final goodbye from his father, reaffirming his faith in him and telling him that he’ll be fine playing cricket for the rest of his life.
It seems to have had a large impact on how he bats too. He doesn’t take too many risks, he plays the ground shots even if chasing a daunting 344. He isn’t ruffled by the kind of attack in the opposition ranks; he rather just focuses on his interpretation of a run chase and how to track it down even if there’s minimum support from the other side. It’s because of this risk-free approach that he is mostly successful coming in with a target on the board.
But that does not mean Kohli isn’t aggressive, he is but mostly in intent and not so much in his actual batting technique. He’s calculated yet confident and never too rigid in his approach. This is mostly a factor of his growing up in the Delhi cricket circuit. “I have not known a more competitive youngster. He was just hungry for more — runs and attention,” says Ajit Chowdhary who was Kohli’s assistant coach in his formative years. This has and will always be a quality that defines Kohli for most part of his career.
He’s 27 and has a good 4-5 years ahead of him to achieve great things. And at this point there are only two or three guys who can challenge him for the top spot. AB De Villiers, recuperating from an injury; Williamson, who can’t seem to get the hang of things in sub-continental conditions and Joe Root, who’ll be tested in the upcoming tour to India. If Kohli can extend his purple patch for the better part of 2017, then it’ll be really difficult for any of these guys to catch up to him.
For now, he just seems a class apart with his amazing stroke-play and impeccable technique, walking to the ground, intimidating world class bowlers with that incredible drive. He’s Superman, he’s invincible and he’s winning India matches at will or so it seems. So the next time you see him taking guard and looking around for the field setup, devising in his prefrontal cortex the exact route to chase down the target, be assured that he has planned it to the T and no matter if the guys around him fall in the process, he’ll try to execute that plan single-handedly because that is what his father taught him and that will always be his dream.
© Anshul Gandhi, MENSXP