-Tarun Deep Dutt
Despite all the sportsman spirit, it’s rare to hear the opposition camp call you the Christiano Ronaldo of cricket. During the first India versus England ODI in Pune, former England captain Nasser Hussain compared Virat Kohli to Real Madrid and Portugal football star as he analysed the match on Sky Sports.
As Kohli chased 350 from 63-4, along with a young Kedar Jadhav, Hussain sang paeans for the Indian captain.
“I read out here that he prefers [Cristiano] Ronaldo to [Lionel] Messi. Messi was given a lot of natural ability but he prefers Ronaldo, who has made himself the footballer that he is and pushed himself on and off football pitch—and that is what Kohli has done in cricketing terms,” Hussain said.
In the midst of this towering praise, Kohli slammed his 27th century, surpassing cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 14 centuries in successful chase.
Another former England skipper, Michael Vaughan, felt Kohli is from another planet, tweeting out his excitement while watching a sublime Indian skipper in full flight, even though it was against his country.
England skipper Eoin Morgan said after the match that Kohli is “fantastic”.
In the next two matches, Kohli successfully guided the side to a 2-1 series win—and proved that being a captain in the three forms is not too much for him.
The 28-year-old man from a Punjabi family in Delhi made the first-class debut in 2006. He captained the Indian Under-19 team to win the Under-19 world cup two years later. He broke into the Indian ODI team at the age of 19, initially playing as a reserve and then securing a permanent slot as a middle-order batsman.
From then to the stage where he took over the mantle of captaincy from Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who steered the team to a world cup victory in 2011, 28 years after Kapil Dev lifted the cup at the Lords in 1983, Kohli has mirrored the progress Indian cricket has made all these years.
Kohli reflects the energy of India’s youth. He is strikingly expressive when sighting his goals, and can be ruthless and explosive when executing the task. At the crease, he is a master at work and nothing deters him.
The Forbes India, defining the Kohli phenomenon, wrote Indian cricket’s hottest property is all focus and intensity, both on the field and off it.
“It’s with this fervour that Virat Kohli has capped a prolific year and led India to the top of the Test rankings. One could rattle off the statistics: Over 1,000 runs in Tests this year including three double centuries, three centuries and four 50s in ODIs, and the highest run-scorer for the year in both T20 internationals and the Indian Premier League (IPL) with a record four centuries in the latter. These numbers have given him cricketing heft and, coupled with his suave urbanity, have sent his brand value soaring: His Rs 134.44 crore pay packet this year has made Kohli the highest-earning sportsperson in the country,” the magazine’s staff Kathakali Chanda wrote in January 3 article.
The magazine ranked him No. 3 in its Celebrity 100 list.
When Kohli’s name figured in this year’s list of Padma awardees, The Hindu wrote: In modern cricket, he is the only batsman who creates excitement and joy with his bat because dourness is not part of his cricket grooming and also because he owns a stunningly wide repertoire of strokes.
“The Padma Shri honour recognises Kohli’s resilience when competing on the biggest stage,” the newspaper wrote.
In the Pune match, after he surpassed the Great Indian Hero Tendulkar’s record for the most number of centuries in successful run chases (this was his 15th, going past Tendulkar’s 14), Kohli’s comparison with the little master began afresh, with some cricket writers extrapolating to say even if Kohli is around for another 10-12 years, he will score 23 more centuries and 10,735 more runs to cross Tendulkar’s tally.
The One Day International (ODI) numbers are already on Kohli’s side. After 177 matches, Tendulkar had scored 5,211 runs. After 177 matches, Kohli has 7,692. Tendulkar had scored 12 centuries; Kohli, 27.
Kohli has gone on record to say he finds comparison with Tendulkar “embarrassing” but it’s difficult to remember a phase in his career when Tendulkar looked as much in control as Kohli does today. So, the comparison, whether you like it or not, Mr Skipper, will only go into overdrive from here.
Film actor and owner of Kolkata Knight Riders, Shah Rukh Khan, was live on Star Sports show for the promotion of his upcoming venture ‘Raees’ recently. He called Kohli ‘Don’, praising him for “the calmness with which he comes at the crease, knowing that he will win it all”.
The Don’s dawn has only begun.