Virat Kohli is an inspiration and a role model for the youth today. We have seen his growing maturity, his consistency and his leadership abilities. Despite this, it is fascinating what one can discover when there is a blend of knowledge and sensibilities of a third man’s perspective about the emergent idol. The interaction I had with Chandu Borde at The Poona Club was educational, to say the least.
Borde was one of the finest batsmen of India and has been known to be a shrewd judge of the game. He was also the coach-cum-manager on the tour of England when India won the series.
We discussed the techniques of modern Indian players. As he has batted against top quality international and domestic attack on different surfaces, he made astute observations about the batting styles of Indian batsmen.
He stated that Virat Kohli is the best batsman in the world right now. He reasoned by saying, “Kohli is equally comfortable on backfoot and frontfoot. Regardless of the format, he reads the length, line, spin and swing quicker than most international batsmen and has time to execute stokes. He has the knack of finding gaps in the field and is fit enough to convert a single into twos and twos to threes.”
As a matter of fact, this was Borde’s batting style too. Some old timers say that Borde was not given his due; the selection politics was deeply rooted in Indian cricket back then. How can one be confident when the chairman of the National Selection Committee flies down to Nagpur during a Duleep Trophy match, assures him the captaincy, asks him to write down 15 names for the West Indies tour of 1971 and when the team is announced, he not only finds out that he isn’t the captain but also he is not even in the team!
It is a blessing that times have changed. Kohli didn’t have to go through all this selection mess.
When questioned about Kohli’s failure in England, Borde said: “How many times did he tour England? Conditions are different and there are times when English batsmen struggle too. A player needs to adapt himself quickly which means he has to spend more time in the nets and in the middle. Kohli is now matured and knows how to adapt to different conditions. Do not expect everyone to bat like Tendulkar.”
Initially, Kohli’s aggression was bordering on indiscipline. It rattled him when certain sections of the media played it up. It was Ravi Shastri, having the experience of bearing the brunt of the media in the eighties, who guided him to keep his focus. Once this aspect was taken care of, we got to watch the revised version of Kohli who got his team members to gel as a family.
Leading from the front
The responsibility of Test captaincy seems to bring the best out of him. Leading from the front is easier said than done. But Kohli seems like a veteran on the field and his tactical moves gladden the hearts of many successful Indian captains.
He manages time to perfection and keeps himself mentally and physically fit to be consistent in all formats of the game. It’s his zone that matters most to him and he has managed to maintain that irrespective of the game situation.
Even Greg Chappell, who scored over 700 runs in a series against the fierce West Indian attack, writes: “Comparing them across Tendulkar’s entire ODI career, Kohli has scored a larger proportion of runs vis-à-vis Tendulkar albeit at a lower Strike Rate Impact, but when it comes to building partnerships, absorbing pressure and chasing, Kohli is ahead of Tendulkar. Kohli appears to be a driven individual so, on the evidence so far, we can look forward to many more match-winning performances and series-defining efforts from him before he has finished.” I don’t claim to know Kohli as some of the journalists from Delhi do. They have followed his career since his school days. This is very important because one gets to observe the player’s change in attitude or approach over the years. One such man is Vijay Lokapally, whose book “Driven” showcases a man committed to the game.
The 2016-17 period is going to be tough for Kohli. As a captain and a No. 4 batsman, it could be very exhausting. It will be riveting to watch a man of his class tackle this period and emerge successfully.