Virat Kohli: A modern-day colossus with an ordinary record in big games

Virat Kohli: A modern-day colossus with an ordinary record in big games

There is one blemish in Kohli's otherwise glittering ODI record which needs to be addressed by the Indian skipper.

Virat Kohli of India
Virat Kohli of India. (Photo by Christopher Lee-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

Indian skipper Virat Kohli might just be only 28 but is already a modern day great. Hailed as the best batsman in the world, Kohli has a stellar record across formats. Of late, the Indian captain has added a new repertoire to his game: power hitting. Earlier, you wouldn’t see Kohli smashing sixes very often but since the last year, the Delhi boy has struck sixes at will in limited overs cricket.

He stunned the world with his unquenchable hunger for runs, especially in the ODI format. Such has been his form in this format that his overall average hasn’t dropped below 50 since October 2013. He was always a very good T20 cricketer. But in the IPL of 2016, he took his game to another level. He recorded 4 centuries in one season, a feat which was never achieved earlier, and scored 973 runs in 16 games at 81.08. Such belligerent numbers were unheralded. Kohli had reinvented himself into a T20 powerhouse, with the ability to match with the best in the world.

His Test career was steady but lacked great numbers. Before India’s long Test season which kick-started in July 2016, Kohli had already won 41 Test caps but averaged 44.02, a couple of notch below his contemporaries Joe Root, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson. He didn’t have a single double century till then, which was again bewildering given his success in ODIs. During the course of the next 16 Tests, Kohli racked up four double hundreds and now averages just a shade below 50. By virtue of his consistency and stellar records across formats, he reaffirmed his status as the best batsman in the world.

Like the great Tendulkar, Kohli will be remembered for his masterly performances in the ODI arena. After 184 games, the 28-year old has 8013 runs at an unbelievable average of 54.14. He has 27 hundreds in the format behind only Tendulkar, Ponting and Jayasuriya on the all-time list. Kohli boasts of a strike rate of 91, which is extremely high for the amount of runs he has managed to score. His average is the best in the world for batsmen who have scored more than 1600 ODI runs. Overall, he is only behind Dutch cricketer Ryan ten Doeschate, who averages 67 in 32 innings scoring 1541 runs.

But is Kohli an all-time great? After looking at his record in knockout games, Kohli has one blemish in his otherwise stupendous ODI career. After making his debut in Sri Lanka back in 2008, Kohli has been a part of 14 knockout games. These include quarter finals, semi finals and finals of series with more than 2 teams involved including ICC tournaments. The record that Kohli has in these games is alarming. He has amassed just 345 runs in these game and average 31.36 with just two fifties to his name. Numbers do tell you a story. The flamboyant batsman hasn’t set the stage alight when the pressure was colossal. If we evaluate these numbers further, in 8 tournament finals Kohli has a poor average of 22 with a best of 43. When the team needs him the most, he hasn’t lived up to the expectations set by himself by scoring runs in less intense games.

In recent times, his failure in the finals of the recently concluded ICC Champions Trophy was severely criticised by fans and the media. Kohli was dismissed twice on consecutive by Mohammad Amir except that the first one was dropped by Azhar Ali at first slip. He shuffled across and wanted to whip the ball through midwicket, his trademark shot, but could only get a leading edge which was held smartly at point. Before this game, Kohli was in a similar situation chasing a big total against Australia in the ICC World Cup 2015. He looked off colour despite the openers getting India off to a flying start by adding 76 in 77 balls. But the might of Australia’s fine pace attack – Hazlewood, Johnson and Starc – was too much to deal with in a World Cup semifinal. Kohli was out for 1 when he, in an attempt to break the shackles on the 13th ball he faced, skied an attempted pull which was taken by the wicketkeeper Haddin.

The manner in which Kohli handled the failure in a big game was appalling. He lashed out at his critics saying that nobody has won India more games than he has in the last 4-5 years and one bad game doesn’t change much. That is not the best of statements to give in the press if you are a leading cricketer of the country.

Kohli’s performances in the preliminary games of these tournaments are almost as good as his career numbers. In 55 innings, the right-hander has scored 2419 runs at an average of 54.97 including 8 hundreds and 11 fifties. That is more like the usual Virat Kohli that we know. But he needs to improve his numbers in crunch games to be called an all-time great.

A general consensus, which is misleading, was that Sachin Tendulkar never fired when it mattered the most. In 40 tournament finals, Sachin averaged 54.44 scoring 1851 runs including 6 centuries. That is a great record to have in high-octane clashes. He took his game to a different level when everything was at stake. People remember him for his desert storm innings in Sharjah against the mighty Australian who boasted of greats Shane Warne and McGrath. Kohli hasn’t got a single innings yet where he has taken his side over the line in crunch knockout games on his own. Of course, players from different generations can never be compared and also nobody can be compared to Tendulkar, but to be hailed as an all-time great of the ODI format, Kohli needs to better his record in knockout games. 14 games is a small sample size and given that he is only 28, he will get a lot of chances in his career to improve upon these numbers.