Could King Kohli Reach The Heights Of The Little Master?

In front of a set of makeshift stumps along the river Ganges, a young Indian boy emulates a lofted Kohli cover drive.

His bat hardly resembles the prepossessing sight of Kohli’s MRF, yet the ball whizzes away with consummate ease down toward the final step of the Ghat.

Ten years ago, Sachin’s straight drive was practiced across India. Now, Kohli’s mesmerising footwork is intricately choreographed on the living room rug of a home in Bengaluru.

Admiration of a cricketer is only gained through performance. And Kohli’s cult following, much like the little master, is a corollary of his batsmanship.

My first memory of the indisputable talent of Virat Kohli came at Hobart in 2012. Requiring a win to keep the series alive against Sri Lanka, Kohli hit an unbeaten 133 from just 86 deliveries in an Indian batting performance that, at the halfway stage, showed little promise in delivering a victory.

He treated the Sri Lankan bowling like fodder. Angelo Matthew’s slower balls found the middle of his bat while his wrists made light work of Malinga’s yorkers through the leg side.

His salute to the dressing room upon scoring his hundred was as much a tribute as a coming of age.

He rarely fails in delivering an innings that makes your jaw gape with amazement and leave you utterly perplexed.

Sunday’s innings against Gujarat, which happened to align itself with Sachin’s birthday, was one of these. It made me think, who will have left the biggest impression on Indian Cricket come the conclusion of Kohli’s playing career.

Both Kohli and Sachin are undisputable marksman of the One Day formats, yet statistics tend to suggest that Kohli, at the same stage in their careers, is more prolific. In 171 matches Kohli has scored 7212 runs at an average of 51.51, while the little master at the same point had tallied 5828 runs at an average of 38.85.

There is no comparison in the test arena. Sachin’s 15,921 runs came in 329 innings at an average of 53.79. Kohli is averaging just 42.02 in tests with a run aggregate of 2994 in 72 innings, laudable but not nearly as prolific. His test stats draw more parallels with the likes of Gautam Gambir, who in 100 innings scored 4046 runs at an average of 42.58.

“He rarely fails in delivering an innings that makes your jaw gape with amazement and leave you utterly perplexed”.

Of course this is taken from a purely statistical viewpoint and hence doesn’t consider the opposition, time period nor the quality of the wickets played on. Kohli never got to face Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar in their prime. For the most part of his career Sachin didn’t have to quickly swap between a five game Test Match series and a T20 tournament.

Kohli’s batting style is more debonair, the cricketing equivalent of a hip-hop routine, whereas Sachin possessed elegance and touch that could have been ripped straight from the textbook.

Kholi is an enigma in the field who drives around in an Audi R8, and probably owns fifty of them. Sachin gets around in a more conservative Nissan GT-R, aptly nicknamed the Godzilla for its ability to get from 0-100 in 2.9 seconds, somewhat akin to his run scoring.

Gee, now i’m really clutching at straws to establish relevant similarities.

It’s anyone’s guess as to who will have scored more runs at the end of Kohli’s career. But runs don’t necessarily translate into the definition of ‘India’s Best Batsman’. They should ultimately be judged on their cricketing footprint. That is, who will the fans reminisce over more when a new generation of Indian cricketers come along.

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