Sanjay Manjrekar

What makes Kohli, Warner and AB special

The three most prolific batsmen of this IPL are extraordinary in distinct ways

Sanjay Manjrekar
Sanjay Manjrekar
David Warner drives through the covers, Sunrisers Hyderabad v Gujarat Lions, IPL 2016, Delhi, May 27, 2016

Warner was anchor and aggressor for Sunrisers this season  •  BCCI

Every IPL is remembered differently. This year's tournament was about exceptional batsmanship, especially that of Virat Kohli, David Warner and AB de Villiers.
That the pitches assisted good seamers and were not batting paradises, as they generally are, made these batting efforts more special. This IPL had more bowlers winning Man-of-the-Match awards than ever before.
Kohli has had a Bradmanesque run in the last few months in limited-overs cricket, both international and domestic. Failures have been rare for him in this period.
In a format like T20, where batsmen take extraordinary risks to achieve high run rates, Kohli's consistency has been simply unbelievable. Add to that the quality of the shots he plays during his innings, and his running between wickets, which has everything to do with the fitness standards he has achieved. These are standards he maintains with gusto and wants to see everyone in his team attaining.
Kohli is very much a modern batting hero in that his physical fitness has a lot to do with his incredible success. The innings he played against Australia in the World T20 in Mohali was possible only because of his fitness. That innings was more about running between the wickets than about batting skill. Running between the wickets is a major part of Kohli's batsmanship and the reason why he is so consistent in limited-overs cricket.
Very rarely does he become desperate to score quickly - which is the prime reason for batsmen getting out in T20. Kohli converts ones into twos and twos into threes, and this assures him of a default batting strike rate of 100 to 120 even when he is batting cautiously.
Having said that, he hit the most sixes in this IPL, which shows how much his batting in limited-overs cricket has grown. Kohli was always recognised as an attacking batsman who hit sizzling ground shots more than he did sixes, but he left the big six-hitters, the likes of Chris Gayle and Yuvraj Singh, behind this IPL season.
Four hundreds in one IPL season is simply mind-boggling. When asked if this record might ever be surpassed, Kohli said, "Records are meant to be broken", and he seemed to really mean it. Maybe he thinks he will be the one breaking it! As for me, while I know one should never say never, this is one record that I don't see being broken.
It's important to also remember that Kohli is not just a limited-overs success but a player who has got quality Test hundreds all over the world, except in England. And that, England, now remains the only little frontier that stands between him and true batting greatness in the sport. This shortcoming is something that he has acknowledged.
We don't know whether he has got over that weakness outside the off stump. We will know only when he next gets England-like conditions to bat in in Tests, against a quality attack. Knowing him, and the great self-confidence he carries, it will be a minor challenge.
The media is now starting to compare him to the great Sachin Tendulkar, which in itself is a tribute to Kohli.
Tendulkar was clearly a product of the old India, where the environment produced conservative cricketers. Though Tendulkar was a naturally attacking batsman, he was not unaffected by the trend as his career went along. In comparison, there is nothing conservative about Kohli, the "new India" cricketer. When he walks out, takes guard and starts his innings, you will never be able to sense or gauge his recent form. He strides out to bat like he owns the ground.
In 2014, when he got the first of his four hundreds in the series in Australia, he came out of the pavilion and took guard against Mitchell Johnson and Co. like he was the king of Adelaide. Who would have thought that in his previous ten Test innings Kohli had got only 134 runs at an average of just over 13?
As for Warner, he got 848 runs this IPL, at an amazing average of 60.57 and a strike rate of 151.42. For RCB, at least Kohli could occasionally take some time off at the crease and let his batting partner worry about the run rate for a few overs. Warner did not have this luxury. In most of his innings he had to be the anchor and also ensure a healthy run rate.
Temperamentally Warner came out looking the strongest among the top three run scorers this season. The maturity he displayed is excellent news for Australian cricket. Warner is no longer just a dashing opener at the top of the order who counterattacks against good bowling to get his team going, he is now a mentally tough cricketer too. That ticks another important box in regard to batting greatness.
If Kohli takes your breath away with the quality of shots he plays, AB does the same with the kinds of shots he plays. In that all-time-great IPL innings against Gujarat Lions in the playoff this year, he played a sweep shot against Ravindra Jadeja that went right over the fielder at deep square-leg for six. Take a moment to imagine the kind of self-belief needed to pull off something like this when you know that slightly mistiming it would mean your team is that much close to being out of the IPL*.
The ability to send the ball sailing over the fielder on the boundary for six with just a small extra thrust of the wrists at the last minute, at crunch times in high-stakes games, is AB's unique greatness. As someone tweeted recently Virat plays all the shots in the book and de Villiers plays all the shots outside the book.
In that game against Lions, RCB were 68 for 6. De Villiers got 79 not out off 47 balls at a strike rate of 168 to get his team into the finals - nothing short of Superman stuff.
It's important to remember here that the same man, only a few months ago, also in India, got just 43 runs in almost six hours at a strike rate of 14.47 on a turning pitch in trying to save a Test for South Africa.
These are three incredible batsmen that we are fortunate to be watching play at the same time.
One of the downsides of excessive cricket is that because we see these staggering batting performances happen in front of our eyes on an almost daily basis, we do not dwell on them as much as we might have done in the past. We do not celebrate these performances as much as they deserve to be, because there is yet another game to watch tomorrow and another great batting feat to watch and get over easily.
*04:33:26 GMT, June 8, 2016: The article initially said de Villiers' team would have been out of the IPL if he had slightly mistimed his shot, which did not reflect that RCB would have one more match to play if they had lost

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar is a cricket commentator and presenter on TV. @sanjaymanjrekar