New Zealand v India, 1st ODI, Napier January 19, 2014

Kohli continues piling on freakish numbers

If it is needed at the moment, Virat Kohli does it, and what he does is exactly what is needed at that moment

To have talent is one thing. To have the ability to harness that talent is another. The combination is rare. But to have both, and convert the latter into an almost precise process, while still keeping the art of the former intact is surreal. Virat Kohli has mastered the art of one-day batting to the extent that the same template keeps playing on loop and hundreds are churned out wherever he goes.

He now has 18 of them in 119 innings. Only eight men are ahead of him on the all-time list. The fewest innings any of those eight played was 240 by Herschelle Gibbs, for 21 centuries. Kohli has played less than half of those. These numbers have acquired such a commanding presence of their own, that it is easy to forget another crucial figure, which takes these numbers close to ridiculous levels, if they already aren't there by themselves. Kohli is only 25.

At such a young age, Kohli has ODI centuries in all the nine countries he's played in, barring South Africa. The latest century, his first in New Zealand, came in his first innings in the country.

With barely any warm-up games, India batsmen usually take a couple of international matches to get used to the conditions on tours. They often try to go for their shots - their bowlers do not leave them any choice - only to perish. Four of their top six batsmen fell to the pull or the hook in Napier tonight.

But out came this young man, with a stride to the middle that has now started to reach the supreme confidence of a swagger. Having seen the first batsman mishit a pull straight to fine leg, he pulled his sixth delivery with so much assurance and power, in front of square, that the opposition's strike fast bowler was visibly stunned.

A 21-year old tearaway charged in and hurled it at 153 kph. That is extreme pace. That is supposed to make you flinch. If not flinch, you are at least supposed to appear uncertain, or nervous. Kohli moved forward with so much calm he could have been knocking it in the nets. A solid defensive push, and the ball sped to the straight boundary. INS Virat had laid anchor firmly at Napier and wasn't departing before another of those emotional celebrations.

"He is a free flowing batsman, backs himself to play big shots," MS Dhoni said. "At the same time, he knows what works for him. Picks and chooses his shots. If he gets a good start then he makes sure that he converts it, makes sure that he gets to fifty and then a big score. He crosses 100 more often than not which I think is very important, especially in this new rule, it is very important that one batsman bats throughout and the rest revolve around him. He has done that really well so far. Hopefully he will carry it as well."

Pick any aspect of Kohli's batting. The leave, the defence, the cut, the swat-flick, the whiplash drive, the steer. The accumulation of the singles, the placement of the much-needed boundary, the sudden acceleration in a batting Powerplay. If it is needed at the moment, he does it, and what he does is exactly what is needed at that moment.

And he does it with such intense precision it seems inevitable that whatever he does is bound to happen. And when it does, it is still so spectacular that you can only shake your head. Both at the thought that you were expecting it to happen, and that there, right in front of your eyes, it does. Over and over again. If a modern one-day batting machine were to be designed, they would have to take the knowhow from Kohli.

In a way, what Kohli has been managing to do over what is now a considerable period is a tightrope marathon. This was a boy who was dropped early, had issues with his lifestyle off the field, still has issues at times with his aggression on the field. But somehow, Kohli has let the fire within burn brighter and brighter and is yet to be even singed by it, let alone burnt. How much effort that must be taking out of him we can only imagine. Genius is by nature temperamental. Only the rarest of rare can temper it to become predictable. Just to drive home the sheer freakishness of it all, he is still only 25.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ESPN on January 27, 2014, 11:41 GMT

    Virat is overrated player.. sachin is a legend being a Indian do not disrespect Sachin's talent comparing to a such a mediocre player. He can only score to loose and his has huge attitude which will drag him to the floor soon.. Keep watching

  • ESPN on January 25, 2014, 17:46 GMT

    He is one of the best... 18 centuries in 119 odd games is a lot.. If he plays like this then can cross tendulkars no of centuries.. I want to see him score more in tests as well... He is taking the place of tendulkar.. Once he is out ppl think game might be over but lucky we have Dhoni ad well.. I agree this post.. It's true...:)

  • Simon on January 23, 2014, 12:15 GMT

    @ Ahmad Uetian. Please check your facts before you post. Are you bagging Kohli or praising him? As per cricinfo's stats, Tendulkar's 18th ODI hundred was scored in Sept 1998 when he was 25 & 5 months & was in his 198th game.

  • abdul mannan on January 21, 2014, 20:57 GMT

    Well written piece, Mr. Purohit. I have followed cricket for over 35 years now. I have seen many talented players who unfortunately failed to convert that talent into huge results and records. Kohli is not amongst them, fortunately.He is simply that best young batsman in the world cricket today.He may not have the silken class of a Rohit sharma but he has a mountain of determination and will power like a Javed Miandad. I am sure he will go on to create new records.

  • S on January 21, 2014, 20:28 GMT

    @EdwinD - De Kock is good but he's yet to score 100s against a quality pace attack in their den. I'll be convinced if he scores against Eng/Australia. 3 of the 4 have come against India. Frankly those 100s don't really count ;)

  • mahendra on January 21, 2014, 18:57 GMT

    Kohli reminds me of the great pakistani batsman Javed Miandad in his approach.Javed didn't take any nonsense from no one, just like Virat.

  • Jawwad on January 21, 2014, 17:51 GMT

    As a Pakistani Supporter I am in awe of watching Kohli bat with such control aggression and intent. Simply wonderful to watch this guy bat. My only issue with him he gets carried away at times and is not respectful toward its opponents. he'll learn to be humble.

  • Dummy4 on January 21, 2014, 15:35 GMT

    at 25 Tendulkar had 25 ODI 100s to his name Kohli has 18 ...........Good going Kohli

  • Raj on January 21, 2014, 15:10 GMT

    Kholi was selfish??!! What rubbish-if it wasn't for him India would have lost by over 100 runs. He is a true fighter with talent and temprament. Wholly let down by most of his team mates particularly the pathetic Indian bowling line up spearheaded by the "fantastic" I. Sharma!!-all teams must wish they had someone like him in their team-NOT! A great batting side cannot compensate for a rubbish bowling attack, especially abroad. India will keep losing until the Sharmas and Raina are dropped. But Indian politics will rule and merit will continue to be ignored. Shame for those talents who will never get a chance-that's the Indian way-very frustrating for those of us who are fed up of commentators sarcastically saying" we beat the No.1 ODI side" knowing full well that India no longer deserves this status unless changes are made very very soon. Another frustrated fan who knows nothing will change-power and politics will rule!

  • Sam on January 21, 2014, 14:48 GMT

    @Vishwas Reddy: OMG, you've got to say that averages are not correct. well you better read my comment again. Kohli's century in Hobart is against SL not against Aus. If you read my comments, you'll learn how to find quality against quality pace attacks in pacy conditions. You better check the records of Sachin, Dravid and Ponting, before you say that Kohli is a combination of them. Are you being sarcastic about over-rated kohli or are you some kind of a kohli-worshipper. Be realistic. How can you justify a man's arrogant attitude merely just because he score runs (except pace against pacy conditions). I thought a rule of the nature is to be humble if you are success.

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