India v Australia, 6th ODI, Nagpur October 31, 2013

The champion of the chase

Virat Kohli's phenomenal success in ODI chases is largely due to his ability to play percentage cricket at a frenetic pace. He hit only one six in his 115 off 66 balls in Nagpur
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Virat Kohli now has 11 hundreds in 64 innings he has batted in ODI chases. Sachin Tendulkar, the only man ahead of Kohli, holds the record with 17 in 232 second innings, but the real perspective can be drawn by looking at whom Kohli is tied with: his friend, Royal Challengers Bangalore team-mate and West Indies opener Chris Gayle, who has taken 132 innings to score 11 centuries in ODI chases. And Kohli is not even an opener, in fact four of his 11 hundreds have come at No. 4.

Even after making allowances for heavy bats, smaller and quicker outfields, new fielding regulations, general decline in bowling, advent of Twenty20, global warming and whatever else, these are scary numbers and a huge improvement over players who have been, for a significant portion of their careers, Kohli's contemporaries.

In his 64 chases, Kohli has remained unbeaten on less than 100 in eight wins, which effectively reduces his hundred-scoring rate to one in every five innings where scoring a century is possible.

"I sort of like batting under lights," Kohli said. "If I have a target on the board, it is always easy to analyse how many runs you need in, say, a Powerplay, or what sort of situation you are playing in. I always like a target on board and sort of analyse my game and sort out how I want to go about it."

His last two hundreds in chases have come in 52 and 61 balls, India's fastest and third-fastest centuries. Only two other batsmen have scored more than one century in less than 65 balls: Shahid Afridi and Sanath Jayasuriya. They did not have the technique Kohli does, and they had to take risks while pursuing those strike-rates.

In playing proper cricket shots while notching up these staggering numbers, in demoralising oppositions by going at such a rate by playing percentage cricket, is Kohli's genius. He has all the shots, which gives him the confidence to back his game even when he is taking his time at the start of his innings. Where he tellingly scores over his contemporaries - who are becoming more adept at clearing fields and relying less on the single - is that he still hates playing dot balls.

In his last two chases, Kohli reduced his number of dot balls hit risk-free boundaries. During his 115 off 66 balls in Nagpur, Kohli hit only one six. He didn't need to hit more. There are few things more disheartening for an opposition captain than a batsman who doesn't need to hit in the air to score at a strike rate of 174. Kohli took a risk only at the start of his innings, when he slog-swept a six, and after he began timing the ball sweetly he went back to playing percentage cricket.

At the end of the match George Bailey, the opposition captain, made an interesting point. He said his bowlers had at least forced Kohli to use his best shots. He played them after Mitchell Johnson had picked up his bunnies, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, and after MS Dhoni had realised how easy Kohli was making batting look.

India needed 35 in three overs, the most challenging the chase of 351 had got. James Faulkner was to bowl the 48th over. In the 46th, he had beaten Dhoni's bat three times with deliveries that went against the angle from round the stumps. He had also drawn a thick outside edge that went for four. This was where Kohli would be tested. "You are making me play good shots," Kohli seemed to say. "I will play the good shots."

To the first ball off the 48th over, Kohli charged out, took it at chest height, and drove it - yes, drove it - to wide long-off for four. Bailey sent another man there, and Kohli took a slightly fuller delivery two balls later and flicked it between long-on and deep midwicket. The game was back in India's grasp.

"When Mitchell Johnson came back, it helps to have someone of the experience of MS," Kohli said about that period of play. "He said, 'He has come for wickets, let's play him out, and one of the other overs can be the big one.' I had confidence in my ability and the sort of pace I was setting that I could clear fielders." It's that confidence that he has, that Dhoni has, which helps Kohli keep calm during the quiet periods. On evidence of his ODI career so far, the confidence is not misplaced.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • rajaram1105 on October 31, 2013, 7:27 GMT

    Well done Kohli, well done team India. When I saw the target, I thought we lost the series to Australia. Good innings from both Watto and Bailey [what an innings he played]. It is always a great feeling when your team does the difficult thing and achieve success at the end. Contributions of both Rohit and Shikar acknowledged. What a class innings by Kohli. I take it as a great compliment when the opposition captain says "his bowlers had at least forced Kohli to use his best shots." So he did and took India to victory. I agree with srnimani that many people did not like Kohli because of the perceived attitude but we all know he is a good talent to have from the time he won the world cup leading the junior team. ALSO I feel it is too premature to compare or even praising him over Sachin. What ever the great master achieved is over a period of time and apart from being a cricketer he has been a great role model. A comparison will be in place say after many number of years.

  • Pavinasen on November 4, 2013, 14:24 GMT

    @frommoonman,I think a lot of people ie the die hard Sachin fans have misunderstood Sunil Gavaskar's comments.He did not mention that Kholi will end up a better crickter than Sachin,or the best cricketer that India will ever produce.He was talking about stats,records are there to be broken and Kholi stats prove that he could surpass Sachin's.That does not necessarily make Kholi a better cricketer than Sachin.On the other hand you can never underestimate Kholi's contribution to Indian cricket ,for that matter the world.Kholi is a good example for our future stars to follow on the technique of batting.

    My indian brother in India,stop stirring trouble between 2 legends of cricket in India ie Sachin & Sunil and also the future legend Kholi.

  • on November 2, 2013, 9:30 GMT

    Only one of his 17 centuries have come outside of the Subcontinent and Zimbabwe. That was against Sri Lanka in Hobart. He has yet to score a hundred against SA, Australia, England, New Zealand and West Indies away from home.

    Seems to me we need to wait a while before passing judgement on his class.

  • on November 2, 2013, 7:20 GMT

    These is a very wide chasm between his performances in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe vesus all the remaining venues.

    Before we annoint him as the next God of Indian cricket ( as some fans are doing) it may be prudent to wait for more evidence in away games against Australia, New Zealand, England, South Africa and West Indies.

  • on November 1, 2013, 6:01 GMT

    Why the comparison ? Sachin is Sachin and Kohli is Kohli. Its the wins which are important.

  • srnimani on November 1, 2013, 5:51 GMT

    For folks who say Virat is in a different era than Sachin with all the rule changes, let us do the same when comparing Sachin with Don.. Uncovered pitches, no limit on bouncers, lethal bowlers when there was no protective head gears, no power (compressed) willows.. the list goes on..

  • jediknight66 on October 31, 2013, 20:04 GMT

    What I respect most about Kohli's comments is his admission of Dhoni's insight regarding Mitchell Johnson--to see him off and then target the other bowlers. This reinforces Dhoni's integrity as a captain, especially his insight in limited overs. As we say goodbye to Tendulkar, I can't help but admit that after the next world cup we may never find a captain as efficient and wise as Dhoni, who captains in all forms of the game. But, Kohli's willingness to listen to Dhoni are signs of his burgeoning into a future captain as he asserts Dhoni's calm influence on him. Kohli has worked on his temperament and he is no longer the verbose youngster whose lips we need have only read to know the profanity of from his lips. All said, I am grateful that we have a responsible lad in Kohli, and Mike Hussey had only praises for his ability after the match--one legend recognizing a future one.

  • Nampally on October 31, 2013, 16:19 GMT

    Kohli is a superb ODI batsman without peers! Nobody in the world comes close to him. Gayle & KP may be distant seconds. Scoring a century in 51 or 61 balls in a chase is a huge unrivalled feat which no one has attained so far. Doing it against Johnson at 150 KPH would put fear of God in any bowler. Two magnificient knocks with no comparable knock in ODI's. These were the best innings played in chase by any batsman. Would have made ever Great Sobers Cringe!I would say he would break Tendulkar's record of ODI centuries if he plays with this intensity for next 2 years. He is literally treating the ODI bowlers with the same scant respect that they get in T20. No wonder he is the record holder for the fastest ODI century. Bravo Kohli - you are the envy of every Cricketer for your superb hand- eye coordination, great stroke play & discipline. Larwood was once created to halt Bradman's demolition of bowlers. I wonder if there is another one- on the wkts. Bodyliner- lurking to curb Kohli!

  • on October 31, 2013, 15:01 GMT

    virat is genius and best odi batsman of this era

  • mukesh_LOVE.cricket on October 31, 2013, 14:33 GMT

    Virat kohli is pure class , it was clear he is going to be the mainstay of our batting right from that Australian tour where he was the only one who scored a century in test series, and not to forget his blitzkrieg against a hapless SL , his real challenge will be playing steyn and co in South african pitches ,wish our BCCI got us something better than a mere 2 test match series :(

  • rajaram1105 on October 31, 2013, 7:27 GMT

    Well done Kohli, well done team India. When I saw the target, I thought we lost the series to Australia. Good innings from both Watto and Bailey [what an innings he played]. It is always a great feeling when your team does the difficult thing and achieve success at the end. Contributions of both Rohit and Shikar acknowledged. What a class innings by Kohli. I take it as a great compliment when the opposition captain says "his bowlers had at least forced Kohli to use his best shots." So he did and took India to victory. I agree with srnimani that many people did not like Kohli because of the perceived attitude but we all know he is a good talent to have from the time he won the world cup leading the junior team. ALSO I feel it is too premature to compare or even praising him over Sachin. What ever the great master achieved is over a period of time and apart from being a cricketer he has been a great role model. A comparison will be in place say after many number of years.

  • Pavinasen on November 4, 2013, 14:24 GMT

    @frommoonman,I think a lot of people ie the die hard Sachin fans have misunderstood Sunil Gavaskar's comments.He did not mention that Kholi will end up a better crickter than Sachin,or the best cricketer that India will ever produce.He was talking about stats,records are there to be broken and Kholi stats prove that he could surpass Sachin's.That does not necessarily make Kholi a better cricketer than Sachin.On the other hand you can never underestimate Kholi's contribution to Indian cricket ,for that matter the world.Kholi is a good example for our future stars to follow on the technique of batting.

    My indian brother in India,stop stirring trouble between 2 legends of cricket in India ie Sachin & Sunil and also the future legend Kholi.

  • on November 2, 2013, 9:30 GMT

    Only one of his 17 centuries have come outside of the Subcontinent and Zimbabwe. That was against Sri Lanka in Hobart. He has yet to score a hundred against SA, Australia, England, New Zealand and West Indies away from home.

    Seems to me we need to wait a while before passing judgement on his class.

  • on November 2, 2013, 7:20 GMT

    These is a very wide chasm between his performances in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe vesus all the remaining venues.

    Before we annoint him as the next God of Indian cricket ( as some fans are doing) it may be prudent to wait for more evidence in away games against Australia, New Zealand, England, South Africa and West Indies.

  • on November 1, 2013, 6:01 GMT

    Why the comparison ? Sachin is Sachin and Kohli is Kohli. Its the wins which are important.

  • srnimani on November 1, 2013, 5:51 GMT

    For folks who say Virat is in a different era than Sachin with all the rule changes, let us do the same when comparing Sachin with Don.. Uncovered pitches, no limit on bouncers, lethal bowlers when there was no protective head gears, no power (compressed) willows.. the list goes on..

  • jediknight66 on October 31, 2013, 20:04 GMT

    What I respect most about Kohli's comments is his admission of Dhoni's insight regarding Mitchell Johnson--to see him off and then target the other bowlers. This reinforces Dhoni's integrity as a captain, especially his insight in limited overs. As we say goodbye to Tendulkar, I can't help but admit that after the next world cup we may never find a captain as efficient and wise as Dhoni, who captains in all forms of the game. But, Kohli's willingness to listen to Dhoni are signs of his burgeoning into a future captain as he asserts Dhoni's calm influence on him. Kohli has worked on his temperament and he is no longer the verbose youngster whose lips we need have only read to know the profanity of from his lips. All said, I am grateful that we have a responsible lad in Kohli, and Mike Hussey had only praises for his ability after the match--one legend recognizing a future one.

  • Nampally on October 31, 2013, 16:19 GMT

    Kohli is a superb ODI batsman without peers! Nobody in the world comes close to him. Gayle & KP may be distant seconds. Scoring a century in 51 or 61 balls in a chase is a huge unrivalled feat which no one has attained so far. Doing it against Johnson at 150 KPH would put fear of God in any bowler. Two magnificient knocks with no comparable knock in ODI's. These were the best innings played in chase by any batsman. Would have made ever Great Sobers Cringe!I would say he would break Tendulkar's record of ODI centuries if he plays with this intensity for next 2 years. He is literally treating the ODI bowlers with the same scant respect that they get in T20. No wonder he is the record holder for the fastest ODI century. Bravo Kohli - you are the envy of every Cricketer for your superb hand- eye coordination, great stroke play & discipline. Larwood was once created to halt Bradman's demolition of bowlers. I wonder if there is another one- on the wkts. Bodyliner- lurking to curb Kohli!

  • on October 31, 2013, 15:01 GMT

    virat is genius and best odi batsman of this era

  • mukesh_LOVE.cricket on October 31, 2013, 14:33 GMT

    Virat kohli is pure class , it was clear he is going to be the mainstay of our batting right from that Australian tour where he was the only one who scored a century in test series, and not to forget his blitzkrieg against a hapless SL , his real challenge will be playing steyn and co in South african pitches ,wish our BCCI got us something better than a mere 2 test match series :(

  • on October 31, 2013, 12:51 GMT

    @frommoonman - Kohli has Dhawan, Dhoni, Sharma, Yuvraj; so many match-winners to back him up. Who did Sachin have? In his time, it was a one man show - oh, and against A LOT better bowlers. Plus, Sachin scored a century after every 6 innings between 1998-2003. Kohli has hit a century after every 7 innings over the past 5 years. And at a lower strike-rate than Tendulkar!

    And let's not forget the ODI rules, pitches, conditions, etc back then. Apart from Steyn, I don't see any bowler equivalent to McGrath, Wasim, Waqar, Akhtar, Bond, Lee, Gillespie, Donald, Pollock, etc. Neither are the spinners as good as Murali or Warnie!

  • ToeCruncher on October 31, 2013, 11:29 GMT

    Virat is a good batsman, no doubt about it. But I suspect his figures are inflated due to a combination of flat tracks, substandard bowling, and batsman friendly rules. That being said, he has a BMT, and any team would have him in their side. All the best to him in the future.

  • on October 31, 2013, 10:29 GMT

    if some1 can even equal the record of SRT tat is only virat kohli,all t best V K

  • IndianSRTfan on October 31, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    Kohli is the best young talent that is out there, period. At this moment no other player, young or experienced, can lay a claim to being a better ODI batsman than Virat in terms of technique and the sheer ability to churn out big hundreds in a winning cause. And that's saying something considering he plays in the same team as Dhoni. His consistency is absolutely top-notch.

  • Harmony111 on October 31, 2013, 8:34 GMT

    Shouldn't Kohli be grateful to the inept Indian bowling? His scores of 133*, 183, 100*, 115* have all come when he was chasing huge targets of 300+ and each time he came on top. But wasn't it our bowlers who were gracious enough to give that many runs?

    This is amazing. 1st our bowlers act like charitable institutions, setting the stage for Master Kohli & then he sets the stage on fire and inevitably gives us big and fast 100s.

    So Kohli owes his tremendous record to the Indian Bowlers (and also to the unlucky Dhoni who never seems to win the tosses).

    If I was Kohli I would take out all the Indian bowlers, esp Ishant Sharma for a very special dinner to the most expensive restaurant in New Delhi.

  • Rahul_78 on October 31, 2013, 8:28 GMT

    Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni are undoubtedly the BEST Batsmen currently in ODI cricket. Period! They cant be rated no 1 or 2 because one bats at no 3 and sets up the game however big the chasing target may be and other is the Finisher who closes the games however improbable it might seems to be. Both are very quick between the wickets, can play percentage cricket, can play in different gears as per the requirements of the game, do not get intimidated by opposition or conditions and have very, very good and calculating cricketing brains.

  • sami01 on October 31, 2013, 8:25 GMT

    Australia is not playing with their best bowling attack in this series..they are playing with too many allrounders..nathan lyon,starc pattinson all are much better bowling options then these allrounders..these pitches are not suited for mckay.he is slow in pace..if you have to win in India you have to play with 3/4 specialist bowlers..you can't defend big totals from this bowling attack..

  • Harmony111 on October 31, 2013, 8:23 GMT

    You know what? After holding all sorts of records, some ppl still say Sachin was not 'all-that-great'. They call Sachin as someone who could bat only in Asia. We have seen this a no of times here. They say SRT scored X 100s in Asia so he was a FTB but they refuse to talk about the other Y 100s he scored outside Asia. In fact, his Y is more than the career agg 100s of most other players.

    With that background, these usual haters are never going to accept that Virat Kohli is a special talent, really special. He is so special that he makes me nervous cos my mind boggles when I try to imagine what heights he will reach. I just don't want to jinx him so I will keep quiet about what my mind imagines for him.

    He scores 100 in Ind - FTB. He scores 100 in Aus - vs poor SL. He scored 100 in Aus vs Aus - Fluke.

    For these haters, unless Kohli scores a chance-less 200 on a green top vs an imaginary team of McGrath, Akram, Marshal, Trueman, Steyn he is nothing special.

  • yezdi70 on October 31, 2013, 7:57 GMT

    @Blade-runner. So why arent any of the aussies (apart from Bailey) also a champion? Flat or not...at the end of the day he is doing something nobody else in this series has achieved...the strike rate and the average is staggering.

  • frommoonman on October 31, 2013, 7:34 GMT

    For Kohli all 11 have been successful run-chase (one against Zim) For SRT 14 out of 17 have been successful run-chase (and six of those 14 have come against Zim and Kenya)

  • Cricdew on October 31, 2013, 7:12 GMT

    Most of the player can't chase even on flat tracks..........lol

  • srnimani on October 31, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    I agree with Varun.. Here is a guy who in my opinion is a real 'master blaster'.. I never liked Kohli because of his attitude, but he is more of a genius than Tendulkar.. I do not remember anything like this from Tendulkar for a long time.. maybe when he started.. was it 24 years back?

  • Romanticstud on October 31, 2013, 5:56 GMT

    Kohli is magic ... In a World XI ... I would have Gayle and Amla to open Kohli at 3 ... De Villiers at 4 ... MS Dohni and Captain at 5 ... Shane Watson at 6 ... Afridi at 7 ... Ajantha Mendis at 8 ... Ajmal at 9 ... Steyn at 10 ... Jadeja/ Irfan at 11

  • on October 31, 2013, 5:34 GMT

    Hey Sachin fans here's a guy who can topple your idol's records in ODIs.Here is a 25yr old guy who has already notched up 17centuries with a staggering average of over 51 at a strike rate of 88.If he has Sachin like longevity in the game he is sure to overcome the master's enviable records.In test matches too he has made a steady beginning,so far in 18 matches he scored 1175 runs at an average of 42 which by all standards is a very good beginning.He has notched up centuries against Australia in the longer format.He has all shots in the book.Moreover he has a sound temperament to boast of.A team guy to the core.He has all the traits of a good captain and has the capability of squeezing the most from his players.He has lead well in the absence of Dhoni.As and when Dhoni retires he is sure to be handled the skippers job.His credentials speak about themselves.All in all one can safely state that Virat Kohli is the best thing that has happened to Indian cricket after Sachin Tendulkar.

  • Raghavendra.M.J on October 31, 2013, 5:28 GMT

    He is just Awesome with Both Bat and Field. He has got all the Text book Cricketing Shots.. Wonder full on the On-Side and Amazing on the Off-Side. And King in Chases !! Hats of Kohli .. Keep up the Great Work.. Feeels Just Brilliant when your batting..

    -- Your's Supporting Fan -- Raghavendra M J --

  • Fast_Track_Bully on October 31, 2013, 5:16 GMT

    With new rules and global warming (lol) there may be players who will score 100 with 25 balls. BUT they may not be pure cricketing shots. They may achieve it by slogging or mishit or by luck. Only players like Kohli can achieve this by class batting.

  • DaisonGarvasis on October 31, 2013, 5:08 GMT

    If you go with the perception that the best batsman in the team should play number 3, Kohli is doing it in ODI's. Team management should give him more responsibilities and let him go Number 3 in tests as well.

  • Sandt on October 31, 2013, 4:59 GMT

    Who ever say anything about Kohli we must accept that he is special talent and he is currently going in his best form till this time of his career.He has long way to go to becoming a genius.If you look at his batting yesterday he played all shots thru offside in the beginning of his innings.And by end when AUS packed offside and started bowling on off stump and getting reverse swing he started playing it to on side and most of his bounderies came thru that area in the end.It shows his class.

  • cekoshy on October 31, 2013, 4:46 GMT

    Kohli is most deservedly the arjuna award winner.He is a genius.

  • cekoshy on October 31, 2013, 4:46 GMT

    Kohli is most deservedly the arjuna award winner.He is a genius.

  • Sandt on October 31, 2013, 4:59 GMT

    Who ever say anything about Kohli we must accept that he is special talent and he is currently going in his best form till this time of his career.He has long way to go to becoming a genius.If you look at his batting yesterday he played all shots thru offside in the beginning of his innings.And by end when AUS packed offside and started bowling on off stump and getting reverse swing he started playing it to on side and most of his bounderies came thru that area in the end.It shows his class.

  • DaisonGarvasis on October 31, 2013, 5:08 GMT

    If you go with the perception that the best batsman in the team should play number 3, Kohli is doing it in ODI's. Team management should give him more responsibilities and let him go Number 3 in tests as well.

  • Fast_Track_Bully on October 31, 2013, 5:16 GMT

    With new rules and global warming (lol) there may be players who will score 100 with 25 balls. BUT they may not be pure cricketing shots. They may achieve it by slogging or mishit or by luck. Only players like Kohli can achieve this by class batting.

  • Raghavendra.M.J on October 31, 2013, 5:28 GMT

    He is just Awesome with Both Bat and Field. He has got all the Text book Cricketing Shots.. Wonder full on the On-Side and Amazing on the Off-Side. And King in Chases !! Hats of Kohli .. Keep up the Great Work.. Feeels Just Brilliant when your batting..

    -- Your's Supporting Fan -- Raghavendra M J --

  • on October 31, 2013, 5:34 GMT

    Hey Sachin fans here's a guy who can topple your idol's records in ODIs.Here is a 25yr old guy who has already notched up 17centuries with a staggering average of over 51 at a strike rate of 88.If he has Sachin like longevity in the game he is sure to overcome the master's enviable records.In test matches too he has made a steady beginning,so far in 18 matches he scored 1175 runs at an average of 42 which by all standards is a very good beginning.He has notched up centuries against Australia in the longer format.He has all shots in the book.Moreover he has a sound temperament to boast of.A team guy to the core.He has all the traits of a good captain and has the capability of squeezing the most from his players.He has lead well in the absence of Dhoni.As and when Dhoni retires he is sure to be handled the skippers job.His credentials speak about themselves.All in all one can safely state that Virat Kohli is the best thing that has happened to Indian cricket after Sachin Tendulkar.

  • Romanticstud on October 31, 2013, 5:56 GMT

    Kohli is magic ... In a World XI ... I would have Gayle and Amla to open Kohli at 3 ... De Villiers at 4 ... MS Dohni and Captain at 5 ... Shane Watson at 6 ... Afridi at 7 ... Ajantha Mendis at 8 ... Ajmal at 9 ... Steyn at 10 ... Jadeja/ Irfan at 11

  • srnimani on October 31, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    I agree with Varun.. Here is a guy who in my opinion is a real 'master blaster'.. I never liked Kohli because of his attitude, but he is more of a genius than Tendulkar.. I do not remember anything like this from Tendulkar for a long time.. maybe when he started.. was it 24 years back?

  • Cricdew on October 31, 2013, 7:12 GMT

    Most of the player can't chase even on flat tracks..........lol

  • frommoonman on October 31, 2013, 7:34 GMT

    For Kohli all 11 have been successful run-chase (one against Zim) For SRT 14 out of 17 have been successful run-chase (and six of those 14 have come against Zim and Kenya)