Sri Lanka v India, 4th ODI, Colombo July 31, 2012

Kohli in a zone of his own

Every day, Virat Kohli's young batting colleagues are seeing a live manual on how to manage their careers

Just how far is Virat Kohli ahead of his peers now? Sample this. It is an achievement for Manoj Tiwary, a very fine batsman, to get a game. Rohit Sharma, probably the most talented of the lot, wonders how he can make some runs, somehow. Ajinkya Rahane seems to have accepted his position on the sidelines for now. Kohli, the youngest of the four, thinks he has no business getting out soon after reaching a hundred. You can bat in the zone. Kohli, at the moment, is living in the zone. When you are so far ahead of others, you can feel lonely at the summit. Kohli is searching for higher peaks to conquer.

You aim to improve on your routine. Kohli's routine right now is making centuries. So now, he wants to make them "big". As if making 133 not out, 108, 66, 183, 106, 1, 38 and 128 not out in your previous eight innings is not big enough. That 38 he made in the third ODI bothered him. He was disappointed that he got out, disappointed that he took 65 balls to make 38, disappointed because he rarely fails nowadays.

"So I thought about it in the nets," Kohli said. His brand of thinking was to bash every bowler during practice with an intensity that was searing to even watch. On the eve of this game, he was clobbering everything thrown at him in the nets. Spinner or fast bowler, Indian or Sri Lankan. He almost broke Ashok Dinda's hand with a piledriver of a drive.

Come match situation today, and Kohli the brute became Kohli the machine, again. Lasith Malinga's swinging yorker had taken out Gautam Gambhir in the first over. Kohli jogged in and calmly left his first ball alone. The man's aggression may be in-your-face, but he knows an international batsman has to respect international bowlers at times, though he can display his intent when he gets the chance.

The first came off his ninth ball, a short one outside off from Malinga. Kohli hooked. Not the desperate hook borne out of insecurity, but a calculated, crisp one. The ball almost went for six over deep midwicket. Intent shown, he went back to displaying more respect again.

He was 23 off 40 at one stage, a strike-rate lower than what he managed in the third ODI. Today, though, he was determined not to throw it away. When Kohli starts churning the singles and twos calmly, you know he has switched into marathon mode. His fifty soon came, in 65 balls, with just two boundaries.

Meanwhile, Virender Sehwag sparked briefly and went, Rohit's struggles continued, Tiwary fell after a start. Kohli was asked what his approach was with Rohit, probably playing for his place in the XI. He said he told Rohit to let him take all risks as a set batsman and try to play himself in. Too bad Rohit lasted 14 balls.

Kohli finally found support from Suresh Raina. Apart from some nervy running initially, there was no knowing that they had come together at 109 for 4 chasing 252. Kohli had an explanation for the running as well. "They have some really good fielders inside and [we made] an error of judgment. You don't run singles off good fielders. It can happen every now and then but after that [we] pretty much sorted it out - who has a good arm, who is quick across the outfield and in the inner circle. [We] made a few mistakes but corrected them quickly."

The explanation shows that Kohli and panic just don't go together. "It is very easy to [panic]," Kohli said, before going on to tell why he doesn't. "When you play about eight dot balls it is very easy to step out and go for that big one. But when you get out you realise that you lose one more wicket and the new guy going in, he might play 10-15 dot balls more. So you have that advantage over that guy coming in to bat because you are set. You can actually start rotating the strike and hit the odd balls in between for boundaries.

"It is all about analysing what's going on in the middle. Today was not one of those quick wickets. Wickets in Sri Lanka are pretty slow so it was all about assessing that. We have players like Viru bhai [Sehwag], Suresh and MS [Dhoni] coming in who can smash the ball at will. My job was to make sure we don't lose any more wickets. That's what I and Suresh discussed in the middle. Because defending 250 you need to take wickets at regular intervals. So our main plan was to stop that and try and create some sort of partnership. We knew we had the batting Powerplay and we [can] cash that in the end."

Fifty-five runs came in the batting Powerplay, Raina got to another fifty, Kohli to another century, after which he finished the game in the 43rd over with eight boundaries off his final 16 deliveries. Kohli's been cracking hundreds for nearly a year now but he said the vice-captaincy, which he got during the Asia Cup in March, had made him more responsible.

"If people think you have those qualities for handling responsibility … I have been given a post, I was happily surprised with it and I feel much more responsible when I play in the middle. Not that my behaviour or my attitude towards my team-mates has changed. It is all about thinking yourself in a more responsible way. That's how you get more mature. If you are given challenges you got to live up to it and it makes you mature as a player and as a person as well."

His growing maturity and productivity is reflected in the fact that he has already made more than a 1000 ODI runs this year, after making 1381 in 2011. We are fortunate to be witnessing one of the most productive streaks in international cricket. His young peers are lucky to be witnessing a live manual every day on how to manage their careers. Whether they learn from it, and how they apply it is another matter.

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 3, 2012, 20:19 GMT

    Tendulkar is a legend & em not comparising him vd Kolhli ^ But mark my word Kohli will be the man who break Sachin's ODI century record ^ go 4 it Virat - love from Pakistan =)

  • Lakmal on August 2, 2012, 13:57 GMT

    Guys, please stop comparing Kohli and Tendulkar.You have to be so proud of them,as both are playing for INDIA.(I am a Sri Lankan)

  • Anit on August 2, 2012, 11:53 GMT

    At this point there is not question about Kohli's talen and class. He has performed well in testing conditions outside of continent too. I am not so sure about of the batsmen in the current team other than Kohli. Shewag, Gambhir, Raina, Dhoni are good on subcontinent wickets but are very questionable on wickets with pace and bounce. We saw Gambhir adjust in Aussie ODIs to some extent. I think it is high time to give Rahane chance and induct fresh talent. Rohit Sharma is a spend force at this time. He simply doesn't have good head to succeed at the highest level.

  • Waqas on August 2, 2012, 11:35 GMT

    Sachin + ability to finish the match = Kohli

  • Dummy4 on August 2, 2012, 9:31 GMT

    In Kohl I see a Tendulakar who can win a match too. i

  • Dummy4 on August 2, 2012, 9:30 GMT

    @Sayantan Bhattacharya, One correction...In 1998 series vs Aus in Sharjah, McGrath did not play while Lee was yet to make his debut.

  • Naresh on August 2, 2012, 7:33 GMT

    While we praise Kohli, there are three others players of class that I can single out - Gambhir, Pujara and Chand. I used to think also of Rohit but he needs to go back to India A and work himself back up. Another to watch is Mandeep Singh. While we talk of batting, it is the INDIAN BOWLING that is NON-EXISTENT. BCCI wake-up. Invest in training of the players like ATUL SHARMA - the javelin thrower/pace bowler.

  • ETURI on August 2, 2012, 7:32 GMT

    dont forget that kohli is just 23 and he is young so he will score hundreds but what happens if he gets passed 28 where the body doesnt help any cricketer to be this much aggressive so just enjoy his skills and cricket but dont take that he is only to break world records before him they were many and after him there will be more dont compare him with anyone

  • Dummy4 on August 2, 2012, 3:47 GMT

    i can say that watching every Indian game now is really fun, because its awesome to watch the different scenarios faced by vi-rat kohli in which he somehow maneuvers a Ton. i think he has changed the significance of a number 3 position in cricket. since sehwag and gambir become unpredictable is how long they will last, he somtimes plays as an opener, fighting the new ball with swing, or he comes in with the new ball slightly swinging less, this tells us if we find another great middle order talent, he can certainly open if need be. virat Kohli also proves and should motivate all the youngsters in the team to do ebetter, since he can achieve all this at such a young age. he can become Indian team mentor for a long time, and someone who sets an example, but i dont want him to become captain, it might affect his batting, and unless he wants that responsiblity, i would not force on him. we saw tendulkar opt out of captaincy, because he knew best, as he is Indias Best.

  • PAUL on August 1, 2012, 23:17 GMT

    @bengal_tiger01 Great post.

    Too many people get carried away with new Indian talent. Although Virat is beyond awesome at the moment let's see if it continues. But let's play down the (dull) Sachin comparisons cos Kohli is already quite a few years behind so how on earth will he make 20000 ODI runs?

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