Virat Kohli has reinvented the ODI game, much like Sachin Tendulkar before him, and in some ways, he has surpassed his idol.
I know you all are getting your pitchforks out after reading the headline. Hold on to that thought till you reach the end of this piece though. Let me barricade my house. After all, I am about to commit blasphemy. I am about to tell you that someone has outdone God himself. But this has been true for quite a while now.
For years, Sachin Tendulkar, despite his diminutive stature, cast a shadow so large that nobody could emerge from that. We could never even think that someone could outdo his feats. It was stuff of legend. Which is why when Virat Kohli methodically and systematically began dismantling the Little Master’s records, we shrugged and gave excuses. To an extent, all that is true. Sachin and Kohli played in eras so different that ODI cricket seems like a different sport altogether. But despite those obvious benefits, Kohli has achieved levels of consistency even Sachin could never reach – at least in ODI cricket.
It’s a touchy subject for many Indians who grew up on a steady diet of Tendulkar’ runs and hundreds. We revered him as the God of cricket. He made us feel emotions that we did not know existed. Most importantly, he gave Indian millennials hope. But Virat is doing more. He is fulfilling the promises that Sachin made. To me, these two batters – separated by a generation – are not competitors but complementary. One raised Indian cricket to a stage where we could dare to compete. We went from perennial whipping boys to underdogs and eventual champions. Our wins were no longer upsets, like they had been in 1983.
But Kohli’s India – and his batsmanship – has been a notch above. He dominated the scene, manufacturing wins that we never thought were possible. His record in chases is exemplary. His authority overseas is brilliant, and surprisingly, he even has a better record than Sachin when playing against quality bowling attacks (combined average under 30). But a stat analysis is for another time.
The only blemish on Kohli’s impeccable record had been how he had never been able to stamp his authority on a World Cup like Sachin had, on more than one occasion. His record in knockouts was also deplorable. In this World Cup, Kohli has changed that. And this hundred pretty much ends that difference too. He may still be a little behind Sachin in overall impact across World Cups but he is not light years behind.
We are humans. We love to compare, pit one against the other. For that reason, we will never be happy just enjoying that India – our country – has produced the two greatest ODI batters of the last 30 years (apologies to ABD). So we compare. But honestly, at this point, even Sachin wouldn’t argue if one were to make a case for Virat being better than him. Now whether that is his humility or astute understanding of the game, we may never know. I can rest assured that this piece will have his endorsement. And I may need it when the mobs arrive.