Monday 16 May 2016

Why there will be one and only one Virat Kohli

The entire stadium erupted into a crescendo of claps and chants of only one name was heard downway upto the main street—‘Kohli, Kohli, Kohli’. The champ raised his arms in customary fashion towards the crowd. This was Virat’s 3rd century in this 9th edition of IPL. History was made and the history-maker was our very own son of the nation.

The captain of Royal Challengers Bangalore, Virat Kohli broke Robin Uthappa’s record for most runs by an Indian batsman in a single season of the IPL. It took him only 11 innings to do so, five fewer than Uthappa had taken two years ago, and in striking a whirlwind 109 off 55 balls against Gujarat Lions, he became the first batsman in the history of IPL to hit three centuries in a single IPL season. Needless to say the team imposed a crushing defeat on Gujarat winning by a mammoth 144 runs on the back of brilliant twin centuries by their captain and Mr.360, AB de Villiers. RCB need to win all of their remaining matches to stay in contention for a slot in the playoffs and they can surely keep their hopes alive owing to their amazing skipper.

Infact it isn’t a surprise to see that Kohli is in such blistering form this IPL season. This talented batsman entered the ninth season of the IPL with 625 runs in his kitty while playing for India in T20 Internationals this year-including seven half centuries-which is the most for any batsman in this format in a calendar year.

But it hasn’t always been a rosy fairytale for the hard-working batsman. Kohli’s father died on 18 December 2006, when he was had just gone past 18 years, due to brain stroke. Regarding his early life, Kohli had said in an interview, “I’ve seen a lot in life. Losing my father at a young age, the family business not doing too well, staying in a rented place. There were tough times for the family…It’s all embedded in my memory.”He came into the spotlight in December when he decided to play for his team against Karnataka on the day after his father’s death and went on to score 90. He went directly to the funeral after he was dismissed. Delhi captain Mithun Manhas said,” That is an act of great commitment to the team and his innings turned out to be crucial. Hats off to his attitude and determination.” His mother noted that “Virat changed a bit after that day. Overnight he became a much more matured person. He took every match seriously. He hated being on the bench. It’s as if his life hinged totally on cricket after that day. Now he looked like he was chasing his father’s dream which was his own too. According to Kohli, his father supported his cricket training during his childhood, “My father was my biggest support. He was the one who drove me to practice everyday. I miss his presence sometimes.

“The way I approached the game changed that day. I just had one thing in my mind that I have to play for my country and live that dream for my dad.”
__ Kohli on his innings against Karnataka

His biggest moment of glory was in February-March 2008, when Kohli captained the victorious Indian team at the 2008 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup held in Malaysia. Batting at number 4, he scored 235 runs in 6 matches at an average of 47, and finished as the tournament’s third highest run-getter and one of the three batsmen to score a hundred in the tournament. His century (100 runs from 74 balls) against the West Indies Under-19s in the group stage was called “the innings of the tournament” by ESPNcricinfo. The writing was clear on the wall—“The next batting maestro had arrived.”

In August 2008, Kohli was included in the Indian ODI squad for the tour of Sri Lanka and the Champions Trophy in Pakistan. Prior to the Sri Lankan tour, Kohli had played only eight List A matches, and his selection was a “surprise call-up”. He made his international debut, at the age of 19 in the first ODI of the tour and was dismissed for a measly 12 runs. He made his first half-century in the fourth match which helped India win the series. He was made to sit out of the playing XI in the home series against England in November due to a packed middle-order. In December 2008, Kohli was given a Grade D contract by BCCI. Later he was dropped from the squad. He didn’t let this deter him and scored 104 off 102 balls in the final against South Africa Emerging Players at Brisbane to help his team win the match by 17 runs and clinch the title. At the conclusion of the tournament, Kris Srikkanth, the chairman of the national selection committee was highly impressed with Kohli. Kohli himself has called this tournament as the “turning point” of his career. Since then Kohli used to feature regularly in the Indian team playing XI but was an unknown commodity until he scored his first ODI century—107 off 111 balls- sharing a 224-run partnership for the third wicket with Gambhir who made a personal best of 150 during the 4th ODI against Sri Lanka in December 2009. The man of the match award was awarded to Gambhir who gave the award to Kohli. Since then there has been no looking back for Kohli and we have only witnessed a rise in ranks for this brilliant batsman. 

It was only during the ICC ODI World Cup 2011 that the world witnessed Virat’s prowess. Virat made his World Cup debut against Bangladesh when he scored a century but was overshadowed due to Sehwag’s belligerent knock. Though he didn’t play any substantial knock in later games, his partnership with Gambhir during the World Cup 2011 final against Sri Lanka at Wankhede was regarded as ‘one of the turning points in the match’ India went on to lift the World Cup for the first time since 1983.

It was in India’s tour Down Under in December 2011 that he became famous for the wrong reasons. Pictures of him gesturing to the crowd with his middle finger went viral. While no one got into the reasoning of the act, many got onboard to despise him and his unruly behavior. He was fined 50% of his match fees but later he tweeted that it was a burst of the moment act as the crowd were hurling abuses on his mother and sister and God knows what else. He responded with his bat by scoring his maiden Test century of 116 runs in the final test. Though India lost the series 4-0 to Australia, Kohli was described as “the lone bright spot in an otherwise nightmare visit for the tourists.”

Following the Test Series, the Commonwealth Bank triangular series saw Virat’s amazing chasing instinct. Chasing 321 to win against Sri Lanka, India had to reach the target within 40 overs to keep in contention for the finals. Virat went on to score an unbeaten 133 from 86 balls to take India to a comfortable win. Dean Jones said that Kohli’s innings “is up there with one of the greatest ODI knocks of all time”.

The 2012 Asia Cup saw him being appointed as the vice-captain of the Indian ODI team. His breath-taking knock of 183 off 148 balls against Pakistan is a memory very much fresh in the minds of Indian fans. Man of the Match and Man of the Series award ceremonies usually had one man common, VK. Matches and series against top teams went on and Kohli used to plunder runs apart from some hiccups here and there. After the seven-match ODI home series against Australia, Virat moved to the top position in the ICC ODI batsmen rankings for the first time in his career. 

It was during India’s 2014 tour of England that a chink in Virat’s armour was exposed. Kohli was dismissed for single-digit scores on six occasions in the series and was particularly susceptible to the outswinging ball on channel outside off stump, being dismissed several times edging the ball to the wicket-keeper or slip fielders. Virat became Jimmy Anderson’s bunny as Geoff Boycott quoted “Jimmy ate him for breakfast.” He was reaching out for balls and playing away from the body. Kohli’s dismal form continued even in the ODIs. A major frailty in his technique was exposed. Bowlers around the world were licking their lips in delight.


The Indian team had their next few series on their home turf and Kohli found ample cannon fodder in the form of West Indian bowlers as well as Sri Lankans to flex his muscles against. He regained form in these series and made runs. In 2014, he became the second player in the world after Sourav Ganguly to make more than 1000 runs in ODIs for four consecutive calendar years.

During the Australian tour of 2014, Kohli was appointed as captain of the Indian Test side after MS Dhoni unexpectedly announced his retirement midway into the series. The world witnessed Kohli’s gargantuan batting prowess and his aggressive firebrand of cricket created ripples across the cricketing fraternity. His encounters against the fiery Australian bowlers, notably that with Mitchell Johnson became part of cricketing folklore. Kohli’s total in four tests was the most by any Indian batsman in a test series in Australia. Kohli had a good World Cup 2015 where he made some important contributions during the tournament. Fast forward now, it has been a golden run for Virat. People say that he is going through a purple patch in his life. This is the best Virat has batted in his entire career, some say. But a purple patch for more than 12 months at a stretch and still going strong? Well the hero has a different take on it—“It is a conscious effort, to be very honest. It is more like ‘Eat, sleep, train, repeat.’ If you want to be consistent, you need to be boring with your training, your food and your batting habits. You cannot take the sport for granted.” Maybe VK has enearthed a simple yet powerful principle.

The brash young brat who appeared on the scene as a chubby right-handed bat has now amazingly transformed into an epitome of fitness. He is regarded by many as one of the fittest sportsperson in the league of Novak Djokovic. Friends and family salute his immense dedication to fitness and food. Though he loves trying out new food, Virat takes care that he burns off those extra calories if he consumes so. He has a methodical training procedure and even has a gym in his house. And the man he credits for his firness is RCB’s strength and fitness coach, Shankar Basu. Basu himself says that he is in awe of Virat’s fitness.

Glamour and Virat sound synonymous and this handsome Delhi-da munda has a huge fan following all round the world. Girls go gaga over his stunning looks and ripped physique. Dudes try to ape his hairstyles and tattoos. No wonder he has been associated with many beautiful ladies. Earlier he was rumoured to be dating Izabelle Leite, a Brazilian beauty and more recently his relationship with Bollywood hottie, Anushka Sharma has become a more public matter than a private one. Even Daniel Wyatt, a member of England Womens Cricket team went on record to propose Virat for marriage and asked for his hand. Recently he was voted as Times Second most desirable man 2015, the one in which he topped the year earlier.

Virat is now no less than a brand. He is the co-owner of Indian Super League club FC Goa. He is the co-owner of youth Fashion brand ‘WROGN’ which makes men’s casual wear. In 2014, Uk-based magazine SportsPro rated Kohli as the second most marketable athlete in the world behind only Lewis Hamilton In 2015, Virat invested US$13 million to start a gym chain under the name ‘Chisel’. In the same year he became a co-owner of the International Premier Tennis League franchise UAE Royals.

In the midst of all the fame and adulation, most people would find it hard to find some time out from a packed schedule, more so if someone is the most famous Indian cricketer in recent times. Virat may seem to be a tough nut from outside but has a heart of gold. In March 2013, Kohli started a charity foundation called ‘Virat Kohli Foundation’ (VKF). The organization aims at helping underpriviledged kids and conducts events to raise funds for the charity. E-commerce giant, eBay and Save the Children India have joined hands with VKF too to generate funds for upliftment of the needy.

Our lovable cricketing hero has been recently nominated for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, the highest cricketing honour in the nation. We sincerely hope that Virat would add another special laurel to his collection back home. He has been an inspiration for many youngsters in India and around the world. People may call him the next Sachin, but he is the one and only one Virat. Our love is with you champion, and we hope that continue to enthrall us with your amazing acts on and off the field.

*** with inputs from timesofindia, ,

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