Virat Kohli’s meteoric rise to captaining the Indian cricket team has borne many comparisons to the sports’ all-time greats. He is breaking new records with every match, both as a batsman and captain. After Sachin’s retirement, he has stepped up and been India’s rock with the inhuman consistency only previously seen from the master blaster.
As he has settled into his number three role, focus has shifted away from him to other members of the team. India’s failure to settle on a stable middle order since Yuvraj and the fab Four has been a constant focus ahead of key clashes. The ageing MS Dhoni has been forced to continually justify his spot since losing the captaincy. Furthermore, Kohli has reaped the rewards of perhaps the best bowling attack any Indian captain has ever had at his disposal. This article focuses on what lies in store for Virat Kohli as the IPL, World Cup, and beyond approach. Will he surpass Sachin Tedulkar’s records and establish himself as the greatest batsman to ever live? The article also covers his record as captain, what past trends mean for India’s chances at the World Cup, and where this leaves Kohli’s future as captain of the team.
The Immediate Future
The BCCI selectors recently announced that the IPL will be a key factor for squad selection going into the World Cup. India’s unsettled middle order has prolonged the search for a reliable number four, despite Kohli’s words affirming that IPL performances would not influence World Cup selection. An unsettled lineup ahead of a crucial international tournament is not a good omen for any captain. The IPL is not about to boost his confidence here. His record as captain has been torrid as IPL skipper. On average, Gambhir, Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, and even R Ashwin all have better win/loss percentages as captain. The stats reflect a depressing reality. Kohli has looked lost, and out of ideas in crunch situations without MSD guiding him along the way. RCB have long relied on firepower to get them across the line, but their failure in winning silverware can only be explained by a lack of leadership. Gayle, Dilshan, de Villiers, Kohli, Yuvraj, and a bunch of heavyweights have only taken RCB as far as the final, relying on individual brilliance rather than astute tactics.
Of course, this does not detract from the fact that Kohli is bound to have another run-fest as a batsman. Kohli has shown no signs of stopping for close to a decade, and he is unlikely to start now. However, his captaincy, and consequentially RCB’s fortunes, do not seem very bright given his past record. While his performances as a batsman might lift his team to the eliminators, he will not be able to sustain this in the World Cup.
His inadequacies as a captain in the IPL highlight a usually underscored point about his record as captain of India: his generation of players has supported him immensely. He has Rohit Sharma, arguably one of the best openers in recent cricketing history. Sharma has also been frequently involved in decision-making and deputisation for Kohli. Dhawan and MSD are other regulars who have stepped in with match-winning performances semi-regularly. As mentioned, Kohli has had fantastic bowlers who have also won the team several matches. And his batting skills have rounded up a usually versatile Indian squad possessing a lot of experience, and a lot of match-winners. If India win the World Cup, Kohli’s captaincy is not likely to be a huge factor in it. As always, performances might help India progress, but getting out of sticky spots will have to be left to Dhoni.
Beyond the World Cup
It has been rumoured that BCCI is set to interview a new round of candidates for its coaching staff for the cricket team. Shastri and Co. have only been contracted until after the World Cup, and BCCI is interested in weighing its options. However, a good outing at the tournament could prevent further experimentation within a team already marred with too much chopping and changing. By statistics, Kohli and Shastri have had a very successful run during their tenure together. It has led to Kohli being inches away from cementing his place as India’s best ever Test captain. He has also the most wins of any captain at this stage of his career than all bar two, with only Ponting and Clive Lloyd surpassing him on wins as captain.
Very little threatens Kohli’s position as captain, even less as a player. Under him, India has utilised a wide variety of talent that have all staked their claim in some way. However, none have emerged as possible candidates for captain in the future. The fact that nobody has come close to Kohli in terms of run-scoring is a huge factor behind that. At this rate, Kohli, 30, is still looking staring at another five years in the top flight before questions about his age start to creep in. His indispensability to the team, and their stellar fortunes under him present no reason for change in the foreseeable future.
If Virat Kohli were to retire from all forms of cricket tomorrow, he would still go down as perhaps the best limited overs batsman the world has ever seen. His average in run chases(99) is only bettered by MSD, and not by much. He is tenth on the list of all-time run getters with just over 10,000 in ODIs. He is already India’s most successful Test captain, and has won abroad beyond the subcontinent relatively early in his career, a task many have suffered careers trying to achieve. He is often subject to comparisons with Steve Smith, Joe Root, and AB Devilliers, but only the latter comes anywhere close statistically in limited overs cricket. Kohli has also established himself as an athlete with fitness only associated with basketball and football stars. He is undoubtedly the best batsman of his generation, and his potential knows no bounds.
The big question surrounding his legacy is an obvious one. Will he overtake Sachin Tendulkar? The short answer is probably not. In Test cricket, Kohli has amassed 6613 runs in 163 innings, while Tendulkar has 15921 from 329 innings. While having a similar average of approximately 53, Kohli is unlikely to double the number of innings he plays given he is going to turn 31 this year. Even if Kohli somehow managed to do that, if he kept going at his current average, an increasingly difficult task with age, he would still only amass 15,252 runs.
His prospects in ODI cricket are brighter, but perhaps not enough to let him overtake Sachin. Similar to Test cricket, Kohli has played about half as many innings’ as Tendulkar. If he went on to play Sachin’s number at his current average, he would comfortably overtake him. However, a gap of 8000 runs is not going to be easy to bridge at his age. Scoring a 1000 runs a season is a monumental task, and Kohli will have to do it for eight years, assuming he will still be playing at 38 -39 with his current consistency.
Despite his almost unavoidable failure to conquer Sachin’s records, if theres one cricketer who can challenge Tendulkar’s record in ODI’s its Kohli. In a sport where players reach their peaks close to 30, Kohli may have some of his best years ahead of him. He has the opportunity to add two, maybe three World Cups to his already overflowing trophy cabinet, not mentioning many IPL’s, series’ abroad, and other milestones that are yet unbroken. If Kohli can do in six years what even a superhuman would take eight for, he would greatly further his case as the undisputed best. As of now, he will have to settle for ‘one of’ the best.