VIRAT KOHLI has long been on the cusp of batting greatness, and at 35, he is making a solid case to be considered the greatest 50-overs player of all time after a run-laden World Cup.
A fairy-tale ending of lifting the World Cup on home soil wasn’t meant to be for Kohli and his India teammates, but his recordbreaking 765 runs at 95.62 was a monumental effort on his part.
Sachin Tendulkar was the game’s premier batsman until he retired in 2013, and Kohli has inherited that mantle from his compatriot, dominating the game for long stretches in the past decade.
Initially, Kohli was part of batting’s “Fab Four” alongside England’s Joe Root, Australia’s Steve Smith and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson. While others have faded somewhat recently, Kohli has been burning brightly, and pulling ahead of his peers.
From 2011 to 2019, Kohli scored more than 1,000 ODI runs a year seven times before going nearly three years without a hundred in international cricket. But the right-hander ended that drought in September last year and has been at his prolific best at the World Cup, where he was the runaway topscorer, hitting three centuries in the tournament.
He overtook Tendulkar’s record of 49 ODI hundreds in Mumbai last Wednesday (15) and it was only fitting that his idol was present at the Wankhede Stadium to see it.
“I couldn’t be happier that an Indian broke my record,” Tendulkar wrote on X, formerly Twitter, to congratulate his protege.
“And to do it on the biggest stage – in the World Cup semi-final – and at my home ground is the icing on the cake.”
The pace at which Kohli broke Tendulkar’s record also stands out. He achieved his 50th ODI ton in 279 innings to his predecessor’s 49 in 452 innings.
Kohli seems immune to the pressure that other batters feel while chasing, and 27 of his 50 hundreds have come batting second.
His dominance has invariably drawn comparisons with West Indies great Viv Richards, who himself is an admirer of Kohli’s batting.
“I am a huge fan of Virat … and he continues to show why he has to go down as one of the all-time greats, right up there with the likes of the great Sachin,” Richards wrote in his column for the International Cricket Council.
“Many people have made comparisons between the two of us over the years, partly because of our shared intensity on the field.
“I love Virat’s enthusiasm… He is always in the game and I like individuals like that.”
Age and fatherhood may have mellowed him, but Kohli can still put on an arresting display when he steps onto the field. Once out in the middle, Kohli hogs the spotlight – even when celebrating a rival’s dismissal in which he has played no role.
Fans love him. And many obey him as well – with a gesture or a stare he can whip up frenzied support from the stands when the team need extra motivation, or stop the crowd from booing a rival, such as Steve Smith, or taunting a fellow India player.
But it is with the bat that he is at his best, and there is hardly a more impressive sight in contemporary cricket than his checked cover drive.
Pakistan bowling great Wasim Akram’s post on X this week best summed up Kohli’s impact on batting. “We live in @imVkohli era. Congratulations emperor,” the bowling great wrote after Kohli’s Mumbai masterclass.