India great Sachin Tendulkar remains the gold standard of batting in the post-Bradman era but Virat Kohli's latest masterclass in Sunday's World Twenty20 shootout against Australia has prompted comparisons with his famous compatriot.
Not for the first time in the tournament, it took Kohli’s virtuoso knock to get India across the line in a virtual quarter-final against the reigning 50-over world champions.
Kohli remained unbeaten after a sublime 82, burnishing his reputation as arguably the best chaser in limited-overs cricket with an innings that reminded many of Tendulkar’s 143 against Australia in a 1998 one-dayer at Sharjah dubbed “desert storm”.
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Shane Warne was at the receiving end of Tendulkar’s wrath in that match and 18 years since the contest, the Australian spin great saw Tendulkar’s shadow in Kohli’s latest knock.
“Great knock by @imVkohli Reminded me of one of your many special innings buddy,” Warne tweeted to his great rival Tendulkar after Kohli secured India a place in the semi-finals on Sunday.
Kohli bejewelled his batting with two sixes and nine boundaries and sprinted tirelessly between wickets in a flawless display of limited overs batting under tremendous pressure.
He middled every ball, timed his shots with surgical precision and found gaps with eerie regularity to stamp his class.
“Of the modern players, I’ve always thought that Brian Lara was the best placer of the ball,” former Australia captain Ian Chappell told ESPN Cricinfo. “I think I have got Brian in second spot now.”
The West Indies batting great was also bowled by what he saw and requested videos of Kohli’s early days, hailing the Indian as the “best timer of a cricket ball” that he has seen.
At 27, Kohli stands on the brink of batting greatness with 36 international centuries against his name and averages of 44 in Tests, 51 in one-dayers and 55 in Twenty20 matches.
It has been a fascinating transformation of a Delhi cricketer perceived initially as yet another brash brat from the streets of a city long accused of inculcating aggression in its youth.
Since Kohli’s international debut in a one-dayer against Sri Lanka eight years ago, MS Dhoni has closely watched the tattoo-wearing, blunt-speaking, heart-on-his-sleeve youngster transform into a mature match-winner.
Kohli hates the idea of an on-field confrontation that doesn’t include him and Dhoni argued it suits the player who succeeded him as India’s Test captain.
“He will always be the same,” Dhoni said after the victory in Mohali. “He will be an aggressive character who will be ready to take on challenges and he will be aggressive on the field.
“But he will also improve. He is shifting in the right direction but he is a tremendous character. He should not lose his character because that’s what his strength is.”
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