Kolkata, March 30 (IANS) There was a time when temperamental and behavioural issues often snatched the spotlight away from his undoubted talent. But years on, the ice-cool temperament of Virat Kohli in pressure-cooker situations is not only consistently winning matches for India, but also provoking comparisons with cricket’s all-time greats.
The masterclass batsman is making the most difficult of run chases look simple. He remains unfazed if wickets fall in a heap at the other end amid a mounting asking rate. Trust him to steer his side home at the end. With his conventional cricketing shots and tattooed hands guiding the ball slowly but surely, Kohli has already emerged as a phenomenon, a part of cricketing folklore in India.
In the latest instance where he got a step closer to perfecting the art of a run hunt, Kohli pulled off a brilliant win against Australia to pilot his side to the World Twenty20 semi-final.
India needed to overhaul the visitors’ challenging 160 in a virtual quarter-final of the World T20. With the other batsmen struggling at the other end, Kohli ran hard between the wickets, converting the singles into twos and pounced upon the loose balls with aplomb.
By the time skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit the winning runs, Kohli was unconquered with a fairy tale 51-ball 82.
Retired Australian left-arm pacer Mitchell Johnson, who had questioned Kohli’s big match temperament on Twitter before the high-voltage game, couldn’t but laud his efforts. The great Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne tweeted that Kohli’s innings reminded him of a knock from Sachin Tendulkar.
A few days back at Eden Gardens against Pakistan it was Kohli again who proved to be a messiah after a stutter upfront. Anchoring a brilliant chase, Kohli stayed put on 55 till the end of the innings with Dhoni again hitting the winning run.
“Not the first time I have seen Virat bat like that. I have seen him evolve as a player. He has kept improving his game,” Dhoni said after the win against Australia.
The flamboyant Indian vice-captain came to the forefront after the Under-19 World Cup in 2008 where he was instrumental in India’s triumph.
But he struggled to balance his career and the adulation that came with the success. However, his determination and guidance from some of the senior team members allowed the then teenager to bounce back in some style.
After a brisk 35 in the final of the 50-over World Cup in 2011, Kohli stole the limelight a year after in Hobart where he scored a brilliant 133 not out against Sri Lanka. He followed it up with another sparkling hundred (183) against Pakistan in the Asia Cup that year.
Kohli mastered the art against Australia in 2013 when he tonked two tons to chase down two totals in excess of 350.
Cricket pundits and commentators are now busy comparing him to the likes of Tendulkar and legendary West Indies cricketer Viv Richards. India’s World Cup winning captain of 1983, Kapil Dev has even gone on to say Kohli is a step ahead of the duo.