Virat kohli – an all-time great who is improving all the time

Virat Kohli of India bats during the ICC WT20 India Group 2 match between India and Australia.

A reasonably paced half-century and a young Indian batsman would leap in the air, pump his fist, abuse in the typical ‘Dilliwala’ lingo, and get out soon after. I can relate this to the Virat Kohli we saw bat tonight against Australia, or the one at the Eden gardens against Pakistan, or the one in Adelaide in that test match against Australia, or the one that charged that chase in Hobart against Sri Lanka, or to any other of his masterful batting performances.

These were the times when you switched on the television to watch India reel at a paltry score for the loss of a number of wickets, and thought to yourself, ‘no way can they take it home from here’, only to be proven wrong at the end of the game.

There’s something that this man does; something that invokes the ‘he’s playing on a different track’ expression, something that tells you ‘it can happen so long as he is there’. There’s something that makes you feel connected to him – like he’s hearing you, and playing accordingly. There’s surely something that Virat Kohli does differently; maybe, it’s that he never lets go of an opportunity to improve!

For a long time, Virat Kohli was always seen as the second fiddle, someone who was still learning, who was still to mature into a cricketer, into someone who couldn’t be the ‘next big thing’. He came into a team of outgoing greats, and that meant there was too much responsibility on him to (first) handle the middle order, and later the crucial No. 3 spot.

Now, just for a moment, close your eyes, and transport yourself back to the time when all the greats were making an exit from the team, and ask yourself, did you see Virat Kohli filling their shoes? Did you see him as someone who could drive India home from tough situations? Someone India could bank upon? You’d be lying if you said you believed in him a 100%, because he wasn’t the one who could do it at that time. But he improved, and improved dramatically.

In the past three years (at least) you can pinpoint any successful Indian chase, and you have (mathematically) a great chance that you’d also incidentally pick out a great Kohli innings. So what is it that Kohli does? What is it that the others don’t? What sets him apart? His attitude does, his hunger does, and his passion does.

And that is why he is so widely loved. He is the reflection of that youngster next door, he is passionate, he backs himself and is just not willing to give up. Maybe Kohli is leading the way for the young India, dare I say for all of it. And because the sheer number of heroic innings he has played in the recent past makes it difficult to keep track, I’ll use his most recent innings against Australia to illustrate how Kohli is leading the way in more ways than one.

When he stepped out to bat last night, just like so many previous occasions, the team was in a spot of bother. But this time, a seat in the semi-final of an ICC tournament was at stake (a position he knew his team had lost out from earlier), and he was batting alongside a struggling senior (who he admits he idolized for long before becoming a cricketer himself). All of India gasped in desperation every time they failed to convert a single into a double because of Yuvraj’s injury. But did we notice a crack in Kohli’s composure?

Remember, this is the same man who wouldn’t at one point leave any moment (good or bad) uncelebrated or unexpressed! Not anymore; this Virat Kohli had improved from those times. He knew his team needed him out there, and he couldn’t throw it away in desperation and frustration; he knew he needed to stay put.

Imagine the tension in your drawing rooms while you nervously calculated the difference between the runs required and the balls remaining (I recall it being in excess of 20 at one moment after Yuvraj’s dismissal). But while we peevishly cursed Yuvraj’s sluggish innings, Kohli had already left it behind; he was now searching for a bowler to target, calculating the risks he could take to get to that total.

He did that as soon as Faulkner came on to bowl, and the pressure started easing off. The difference that seemed like a huge gulf at one moment between the runs required and the balls remaining, now seemed to have reduced to a trickle.

He had done it again, for the umpteenth time in a period which seems like an eternity now. He had come into a difficult situation, applied himself and got his nation over the line.

Remember how we used to shadow-bat as kids and imitate winning games for the country from crunch situations? Tonight, when Kohli went down on his knees after that victory with tears in his eyes, you could almost relive your own emotions in his.

You could feel what he felt; tonight, everyone was Kohli – and that’s what makes him special. Because tonight, alongside chasing that target of 161, he was also chasing a dream, a dream that all of us saw, a dream that he conquered.

Fitter, hungrier and more composed, he will take on another opposition, in another run-chase, yet again. And while all of us rejoice after that brilliant knock from him tonight, he would be silently assessing the mistakes he committed in this innings and improving upon them.

Virat Kohli is a microcosm of what we as a nation wish to achieve; he’s a microcosm of every youngster’s dream. Virat Kohli is you and me, just improving all the time.