November 3, 2013

The king and his heir

As Tendulkar prepares to walk into the sunset, Virat Kohli is set to become the Indian batsman opposition bowlers fear the most

With Sachin Tendulkar on the verge of retirement, Australian bowlers, past and present, must be sighing with relief that the torment is nearly over.

Those expressions of relief are a bit premature. Virat Kohli's two recent centuries, plundered in winning Indian causes, were eerily similar and a stark reminder of Tendulkar's feat against Australia in Sharjah in 1997-98. Considering the circumstances - Tendulkar's first hundred in Sharjah was scored in a game India had to perform exceptionally well in to advance to the final, while the second came in the final to pull off an extraordinary win - they were the two best ODI innings I saw Tendulkar play.

He tore into an Australian attack that included Shane Warne, and in both innings Tendulkar scored at better than a run a ball in an era when that wasn't an everyday occurrence. In the first of those two brilliant knocks, India had a certain figure to reach in order to ensure an appearance in the final even if they eventually lost the match to Australia. Not satisfied with just guiding his side into the final, Tendulkar's competitive instincts had been aroused and he was in hot pursuit of victory when he was dismissed.

That's where Kohli went one better than Tendulkar. Both his imperious centuries ended in unlikely Indian victories. That's not to say Kohli is a better player than Tendulkar, but he has acquired the knack of being at the crease when the winning runs are hit in extraordinarily difficult chases.

He also did it at Bellerive in a chase against Sri Lanka that was similar to Tendulkar's first century against Australia in Sharjah. This time India needed to win inside 40 overs to retain any hope of a spot in the CB Series finals. Kohli achieved this aim comfortably with a scintillating unbeaten century.

So many times did Tendulkar shred Australian attacks that it's difficult to choose the best of those Test innings, but two in his early days were crucial to his legend.

First, there was his hundred at the SCG in 1991-92, which set in motion a love affair with the ground. That was bettered two Tests later by a remarkable century on the bouncy WACA pitch. A short man of just 18 years, coming from a country renowned for low-bouncing pitches to a ground unique for steep lift off a length, had no trouble taming a rampant Australian pace attack.

Tendulkar, calm and calculating, is reserved more by circumstance than nature. Kohli, on the other hand, is an extrovert who wears his heart on his sleeve

Tendulkar was already a star, but this remarkable performance ensured the world would understand that this was a batsman out of the box.

To continue the Tendulkar-Kohli similarities, it was an innings in Perth by the younger batsman that enhanced his self-belief at Test level. Kohli didn't make a hundred at the WACA, but his confidence-building 75 in the second innings was a shining jewel in the rubble of India's performance; this he followed up with a century in his next Test innings.

Like so many overseas batsmen before him, a century in Australia was the achievement that convinced Kohli he had arrived as a Test player. Since then he hasn't looked back, and he's now set to take over not only Tendulkar's coveted No. 4 spot but also his mantle as the Indian player opponents most want out.

Despite those similarities, there's much that's different. Kohli started his career at a much more advanced age than the child prodigy and they are totally dissimilar in temperament. Tendulkar, calm and calculating, is reserved more by circumstance than nature. Kohli, on the other hand, is an extrovert who wears his heart on his sleeve, and you wonder if that won't hurt him when he endures a rough trot. The Indian fan's obsession with "star culture" can be a two-edged sword.

For the moment, Kohli's passion fuels his play, and in his more flamboyant innings it appears that there's nothing he can't achieve. As a likely future Indian captain, he may have to rein in outwardly emotional displays. In the meantime, his batting is there to be savoured and enjoyed - that is, if you are not an Australian bowler. Long remember the king for he's (nearly) gone; hail the prince, because he's still around to torment bowlers.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator for Channel 9, and a columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • victoria on November 9, 2013, 14:40 GMT

    Ian, Let me ask you this question: Who was putting who under pressure over the years? "Was it India's 1.2 Billion people putting Sachin under pressure, or, he putting them under pressure", when he batted? Based on the voices I'm hearing from the Indian public, I say without apology, that "it was Sachin who was putting the people of India under pressure" - not the other way around. When you played Mr Chappell, what used to put you under pressure? Wasn't it the need to perform well to maintain your place in the team? But you know that since Sachin made the Indian team, his case has always been different, to any other member of any team sport in the world - he never had to worry about his place in the team - he knew he could not be dropped and 1.2 Bill were praying for him! So he had to be most confident! Hence, he had no reason other than his short comings to blame, when he performed poorly. But the Indian public has always been unfairly used as his scapegoat for his short comings! WHY?

  • Jay on November 7, 2013, 12:50 GMT

    When Tendulkar reached the 100 100s milestone last year, David Frith proclaimed: "Hail the boy king Tendulkar"! His opening para: "Cricket is full of surprises. But it really and truly is almost beyond belief that a cricketer can chalk up one hundred scores of 100 or more in international matches"! Sachin's record is not a flawed statistic. Frith should know: He is the founding editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly & a reputed cricket historian/writer. He's a Wisden authority, ask him why English County stats are not considered international. Obviously what counts are matches played by international teams who are Full Members of ICC & a few Associate/Affiliate members. It is what it is! Yes, Sachin's played more Tests & ODIs than anyone else. It's because of his phenomenal Staying Power: he's played through pain & injury, slumps & fatigue, media scrutiny & huge public expectations. That's precisely why he's outlasted his rivals & risen to the top. Beyond belief. It is what it is!!

  • randolf on November 7, 2013, 7:12 GMT

    jay57870, So whom did you or anyone else expected to score the first double 100 in ODIs? Tendulkar is the man who has played tons more ODIs than anyone else, and opening the batting - the only position where it seems that anyone may be able to do so - except an opener gets out very early. This touted 100 international 100s is a flawed statistic! So many people scored what could be considered 100 international 100s before. How can a 100 against Namibia or Kenya could be more international than a 100 scored against any English County bowling attack in the 70s and 80s with those mixed bowling attacks, that may have combined any of Marshall+Bothom+Bedi, or Lilee+Imran+Gibbs, etc? Hence, which of Tendulkar's 100s against Namibia, or Kenya or Bangladesh could be compared to a 100 made in a county match those days? You know what, if I had come from out of space for the last 3 years and was told that Tendulkar is one of the great batsmen in the sport of cricket, I wouldn't recommend cricket!

  • Jay on November 7, 2013, 3:02 GMT

    Chappelli & his ilk are still in denial. Ian was miffed that his brother Greg had to resign as India's coach in 2007 after a disastrous 2-year tenure. One can see how Ian's sibling sentiments got the better of him: He had no business asking Tendulkar to quit. The Indian selectors had full faith in Sachin. His record speaks for itself over the past 6-7 years: He's won the ICC Cricketer of the Year award. He's the first man to score a double ton in ODIs. He scored the most runs for India to help it win WC2011. He's the first man to score 100 international centuries. Above all, he's a team player & achieved it all with humility, loyalty & integrity! The reputed cricket historian David Frith proclaimed: "It is tempting to mark down Bradman and Tendulkar as the finest two batsmen who ever lived"! TIME Magazine declared: "We have had champions ... legends, but we have never had another Sachin Tendulkar and we never will"! And Yes: India's king was bestowed the Order of Australia honour!!

  • victoria on November 6, 2013, 20:12 GMT

    jay57870, I've never seen Chappell writing anything UNFAIR about Tendulkar! In 2007, when he wrote," Tendulkar has become a shadow of his former self in the last THREE or FOUR years and has looked like a player trying to "eke out a career", Chappell was totally correct! That time SRT should have been dropped! His performance among the 8 best teams in the world was abysmal: In nearly 50 innings he had an average in the low 30s, and couldn't score a single 100 against them, save a shaky one against Sri Lanka! In other words, he looked much worse then, than he looks now for the past THREE YEARS against the best! So why you think Ian was wrong to advise that he be dropped? That's what would have happened to every other player in the world! And I don't think he did anything FOR INDIA since, just for himself - that's' why I don't rate him the heights some want to. Ian said that he's "INDIA'S" KING - not any one else's! Warne's Schin-Lara analysis must be taken with a grain of salt! Cont'd:

  • Par on November 6, 2013, 18:22 GMT

    FTB. Yes, that is the future of all cricketers, how they will be judged. For Kohli to come near SRT, he will have to score hundreds in austraia/ SA/ England in test series. Loads of runs in test arena, against handful of top teams with no excuses of how often tests will be played (in future they would go down, india trumpeting the view that tests are irrelevant which will be based on knowledge and realization that no-1 ranking in tests is nigh impossible for india anymore). ODIs, they are irrelevant. SRT along with jayasuriya, gilly and others revolutionized ODIs in 1990, just like Sir Viv had his stranglehold on the format 10-15 years earlier. Now rohit sharmas can hit double hundred, any performance in ODIS can be only taken with grain of salt

  • beverly on November 6, 2013, 13:02 GMT

    CherryWood_Champion, With all due respect to the Gt Shane Warne, he's the last cricketer you should quote - his behaviour was poor as a player! Too, Warne was the first overseas player to be made captain in the corruption plagued IPL! In fact, he was Rajastan Royals first Captain for quite a few years. Do you know that he withdrew that silly statement since he stopped playing IPL cricket? You should also know he said that about Lara, because Lara is the only batsman who made the Australian selectors dropped him unceremoniously in the WI in 1999 - the only time that he was ever dropped in his long illustrious career. Yes, Lara murdered him here in the Caribbean, the way he has never been to the day of his retirement. As usual, I base my contributions on facts, which you can always look up! Remember, the main difference between Lara and Sachin is that Sachin always has a well oiled PR machine - Lara's bat was his only PR mechanism! We all know why some of these guys root for Sachin!

  • Suren on November 6, 2013, 8:24 GMT

    For me a player is considered best if he masters/conquers his opposition in their own backyard. Because the conditions are different and alien to them. As some of the Aussies mentioned here on the discussion board, lets take only Tests ( Because none of them can come close to Tendulkar in ODIs)

    First Lets do Ricky ... on how well he did against India in India

    Ricky Ponting: Tests:( On flat Indian tracks against a mediocre Indian bowling ) - Averages 26.48 with with just one century

    Now lets see Tendulkar against Aussies in Australia ... Tests:( In Australia on green/bouncy tracks ) - Averages 53.20 with 6 centuries

    Here are the statements of top two cricketers from Australia ... This should pretty much close the debate of Ricky vs Sachin. Don Bradman: "Now I never saw myself play, but I feel that this player is playing much the same as I used to play". Australian spin legend Shane Warne: "Tendulkar is, in my time, the best player without a doubt -- daylight second, Lara third".

  • Jay on November 6, 2013, 2:23 GMT

    Ian - What an about-face! Now Chappelli (or his ghostwriter) is singing the praises of The Little Master! The same Chappelli who issued Tendulkar a silly "Mirror, Mirror on the wall" dictum to retire in March 2007! And hounded him for years with his half-baked sermon on "use-by-dates"! The High Priest of Cricket is wrong: missed the mark by 6.5+ years!! Now he anoints Tendulkar as "The king and (Kohli) his heir"! The same Chappelli who anointed Duminy as the "Next Big Thing" & Sehwag as "The New Bradman"! Oops! Beware of Chappelli's prophesies on Kohli or Pujara or Rohit or Chand. Still Ian's right about "India's riches, Australia's need": there's Indian talent aplenty to fill the void. But it's futile to single out anyone as the heir, apparent or presumptive. Yes, Sachin is their unquestioned role model & champion. As Kohli proclaimed after the WC2011 triumph: "Tendulkar has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years (24 now). It was time we carried him"! That says it all, Ian!!

  • AQ on November 5, 2013, 22:54 GMT

    Kohli is a great player(if he isnt facing junaid khan b/c then he turns into a cry baby who doesnt score)