Dmitri #6 – Virat Kohli

kohli

First up, let me tell you about some biases I have. When I played cricket I was a batsman. I didn’t have a lot of time for the bowling art. They always gave me the hump. So naturally I am going to be biased in favour of batsmen. The two previous winners of a Dmitri for international cricket were Brendon McCullum and Steve Smith. This year, due to a bit of late season / late year bias I have decided that the player that had the most effect on me, and on the cricket landscape from my perspective wasn’t his colleague Ravi Ashwin, but the skipper himself, Virat Kohli. If it were test cricket alone Kohli would be near to the player of the year, if not the winner, but because he scored all those runs, allied to his phenomenal record in ODIs, his more than decent T20 record (yes, a record, by far, in the IPL for runs in a season) and it actually seems ludicrous if he isn’t your player of the year.

I’ll also admit another bias. If you piss off our bleeding hearts, both among the twitterati and the print media, and our precious little players, then yes, you have a little plus point in my eyes. You have to be a total Shane Warne for me to get angry with you. Yes Kohli can be a little punk on the field of play, but when that’s a Ben Stokes or James Anderson we laud their competitiveness and fire. When it’s in the opposition they are an arsehole. Have a think about that for once. I’d love to have Virat on my team.

Virat Kohli had an almost impossible act to follow. The next gun middle order batsman after Sachin Tendulkar had to be something else to even get the praise that the Little Master seemed to attract without, later in his career, any need to actually produce much. Kohli was one of those fighting around to take the mantle over, and yet it took him a bit of time to make his way in test cricket, scoring his first ton in his 8th match. He is 28 and has played around 80 fewer test matches than Alastair Cook, who is four years older by way of comparison. Kohli still has just 4209 test runs, almost 7000 adrift of Cook. Kohli has only just, after a massively phenomenal year, got his test average above 50. In many ways looking at his career test stats, he’s a late bloomer, and yet already he has a tremendous aura about him. Of course, he still has to do it in England, they say. I’ll be interested to see what 2018 brings.

Much of that aura is to do, I think, with the way he contemptuously dismisses everyone in ODI cricket. He averages nearly 53 in the limited over form of the game over his career, and as stated, in 2016 he has been phenomenal. He has 26 hundreds. His record in chases is spellbinding. Creating an aura is a pre-requisite to sustained great performance, because psychologically you fear what a man can do. You fear what Kohli might do to you in the ODI game, and then when the test performances follow, you might start fearing him in his all-round batting game. This year he put it all together.

In 2016 he scored 1215 runs at over 70 with four scores over 100. Three of those were double tons. All of those came in the second half of the year. India did not play a test before July. In 10 ODIs this year, Kohli scored 734 runs at an average of 92.37 with three centuries. In 2016 Virat played 15 T20 internationals, averaging a rather impressive 106.83 (helped by a ton of not outs) and with a top score of 90* in his 641 total runs. That’s not bad, don’t you think?

Then comes that aura. The captaincy of India in the test form has been something to behold. Tactically there might always be some issues, but what leadership has done has appeared to galvanise his resolve as a test bat. We saw it in the five match series, with a potentially test saving innings at Rajkot, an exhibition of vivacious batting in Vizag, a useful half century at Mohali and then the masterclass of Mumbai, a double century that took the breath away. Of course, it would never happened if Adil Rashid……..

He was all over the England team in the field, an aggressive presence, indulging in some back and forth which seemed to upset the cognoscenti. “He is not the most popular player among the England team” was used more than once than my upcoming Dmitri winner, as if this actually matters.  I’m sure Kohli couldn’t give a flying one what the opposition think about him. He’s a winner, and he wants to win and attack at nearly any opportunity. Having great wickets at home surely helps, but I can’t forget his performances last time in Australia too, where he looked magnificent. His energetic captaincy is in contrast to MS Dhoni’s test efforts. Where MS seemed not to give a FF about tests and captaincy, especially later in his career, Kohli takes every setback like a personal affront. If Virat Kohli were English, would you not want him as your captain, or would you worry that it might affect his game?

Kohli is the nearest I’ve come to watching Brian Lara. I might actually make a point of stopping everything I reasonably can to watch him bat. He’s that good. Both in terms of ability and fun to watch. Like the other members of the core four – Smith, Williamson and Root – he appears to wield a very long bat. It’s not technical, it’s not any great analysis, but the bat just appears longer in their hands than many others (AB seems to have a short bat to me – it’s nonsense I know, but I hope you get the sort of idea I’m on about). They all seem to be able to wield the willow with a lovely backlift and follow through (Smith, maybe not. He has a technique only his mother could love). Kohli’s bat also seems lightspeed fast. There’s wrist work, but it’s Lara-like, not traditional Indian style. It’s the crack and the pace of the bat that seems special. It’s all pretty woolly I know, but there’s a perception of pure pace when Kohli hits it. He can find gaps, he can manoeuvre fields and shots with the best of them, and he is, when not batting against you, a joy to watch.

He’s also massively, massively important for the game. Virat Kohli evidently loves test matches. He looks as though he relishes his own performances in the elite form of the game and that of his proteges. He wants India to dominate test cricket. He wants to dominate test cricket. It is great he’s a brilliant white ball player, but in a world where test cricket is constantly seen as under threat, it is vital that THE icon in THE largest cricket playing nation does not treat test cricket as a chore. Kohli can fill test grounds. In India. That is massively important for the game. Arguably, from our test-loving perspective, he is more important than Tendulkar and Dhoni. He’s a player we need now, and we need him to be this Virat for a number of years yet.

In retrospect, Virat was a slam dunk for this, wasn’t he? Bias or no bias.

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14 thoughts on “Dmitri #6 – Virat Kohli

  1. alecpaton December 29, 2016 / 7:47 pm

    Kohli is what every great sporting occasion properly needs- he’s a villain.

    This is not in the sense of a player whose actions harm the sport. Instead he’s someone to root against. I imagine this is how Aussies felt about KP and my parents’ generation felt about Alan Border; you could appreciate everything they did but still wish it ended as swiftly as possible. In allying his talent to an abrasive personality he makes every India test compelling.

    He deserves his Dmitri for being brilliant and for helping to make test cricket brilliant. I look forward to years of a love/hate relationship more aesthetically pleasing than the one I have with Steve Smith.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zephirine December 30, 2016 / 2:20 pm

      Yes, you feel that Kohli relishes that ‘villain’ role, like some old-time movie star who specialised in playing the baddies who were great at duels. Or the Western gunfighter with the black hat. Except the baddie usually got defeated by the boring hero in the end and Kohli doesn’t intend that to happen.
      I think he’s great! A worthy Dmitri winner.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. d'Arthez December 29, 2016 / 8:15 pm

    Fully agree with this Dmitri. Obviously the cricketer of the year, given his amazing record across formats. No one comes even close.

    The nice thing about the England series is that mostly “typical” Indian (there is huge variation in India in terms of wickets and how they play, but I don’t think anyone would be willing to argue that the wickets were unfair or deliberately tweaked based on the proceedings) wickets were used – not pitches on which scores of 200 would be competitive, as evidenced by the fact that England lost twice by an innings after posting 400 and 477.

    So crowds can actually see batsmen bat, for an entire day if they apply themselves. And bowlers actually have to work for their wickets. That helps bring in the crowds – cricket is a batsman’s game. That helps to get the crowds in, over 5 days as well. And even if sometimes the result is an almost foregone conclusion, it gets drawn out over enough time, people will come to appreciate good bowling as well.

    The importance of Kohli for Test cricket can hardly be overstated – and for the health of the game it would be good if India managed decent results overseas. Kohli is effectively giving the ICC 5-10 years time to structure the longest format decently (and given that the ICC have proven themselves as useful as hemorrhoids in the past 3 years, that is a big if).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. samisportsupdatesindia31 December 29, 2016 / 8:42 pm

    I think kohli is only player who is playing all formats like champion,he is best the others r way way behind,others r good at one formats or maximum 2.

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus December 30, 2016 / 11:14 am

      A little warning sir. Please do not comment solely to link to your site. If this continues I’ll be forced to pre-moderate you. The relevant comments have been deleted.

      Like

  4. man in a barrel December 29, 2016 / 8:48 pm

    Quite agree, Dmitri. This series against England was like an echo of when Walter Hammond erupted on the stage in 1928 – 29 against Australia, or Bradman in 1930, or Trumper in 1902. Unquestionably the best batsman on either side.

    And Anderson’s Cook-style petulance reminds me of PGH Fender saying in 1929 that Bradman would never score runs in England.

    Given the way the Indian seamers comprehensively outbowled the Brits, will Cook dare to ask for green seamers? Kumar outbowled the divine Jimmy and Stuey at Lords, didn’t he?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sri Grins December 30, 2016 / 6:48 am

    Fully agree with you on his importance to cricket & India .

    As an Indian cricket fan used to expecting test defeats away, he is a breath of fresh air as his focus is obviously about winning test series in SA & Eng & OZ. After having Sehwag, Fab 4 & Zak & Kumble/Bhajji yet failing to win convincingly, I hope for crushing wins away.

    Also, for a BTL poster used to stereotypes about Indian Cricket & players (IPL/lack of technique/ spoiled by too much money / Home bullies / flat tracks or dust bowls depending on the result) :-), Virat is a gift of the Gods.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. pktroll (@pktroll) December 30, 2016 / 7:41 am

    Of ‘the big 4’, i.e. Smith, Root, Williamson and him, I can only but agree that he’s the most thrilling to watch and has been for some time, even when he didn’t have the test stats to back up that claim. He has scored a ton in SA as well as the few he has in Australia alone, so that the idea that he’s a homer is pretty duff. I’ve now seen first hand evidence with that double ton in Mumbai. There were even times on that 3rd day where the spinners actually bowled quite well, and the likes of Jake Ball weren’t that far behind. The problem is that for so much of that day, all one can recall is the fluency and ease in which he took the attack to England. He should now be entering his batting pomp at 28. I hope he isn’t wasted too much on whatever silly limited overs itinerary that they are given, no matter his outright brilliance in that too.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. SimonH December 30, 2016 / 10:14 am

    Final averages for openers in 2016:

    goo.gl/MZsIge

    Well, who wouldn’t select Chef and Root as their team-of-the-year openers on those figures?

    Liked by 1 person

    • d'Arthez December 30, 2016 / 11:38 am

      Yeah, who does not want to have the sixth best opener (on average, with the minimums stipulated in SimonH’s statsguru query), who has the worst innings / ton ratio of all the opening batsmen who have made at least 1 ton in the year?

      Furthermore, in all of the series which involved England, at least one opener (on either side) had a better average for the series (and in the case of the India series, 5 openers had a better average than Cook: Root (1 innings, but apparently that is enough to be selected anyway), Parthiv Patel, Rahul, Vijay and Jennings). He was the worst opener in Bangladesh, second best against Pakistan (behind Azhar Ali), and Sri Lanka (behind Hales), and South Africa (behind Stephen Cook).

      Like

      • SimonH December 30, 2016 / 12:42 pm

        The one who’s most hard done by by my minimums is Tamim Iqbal who had a better average than Cook and whose few appearances were entirely down to Bangladesh’s schedule.

        Just watching the highlights from Australia including another one of those Steve Smith hundreds that doesn’t count for reasons. Australia’s total was their highest ever at the MCG (beating 1937) and Starc broke the record for most sixes in an innings there (beating Symonds).

        Horrible shot from Misbah – a definite tour too far from him. Two very marginal ‘Umpire’s Call’ LBWS went against them.

        I wonder if the Newmans and Hussains are re-thinking their “England just need to show up to walk the Ashes” trope yet? Australia have turned it around by the senior players stepping up through a combination of getting SL out of their minds and playing in better (for them) conditions. Two of the new players (Renshaw and Handscomb) have contributed significantly without totally convincing, Bird has contributed a little and the other two not at all (which leaves Nos. 6 and 7 still unresolved).

        Australia can lose their next 5 Tests and will still be ranked above England.

        Liked by 1 person

      • d'Arthez December 31, 2016 / 5:31 am

        Really not sure about Wade in particular, and as the axing of Maddinson shows, Australia still have no idea about who their #6 is. Handscomb and Renshaw look promising enough – but can they survive the tour of India? That is the big question, because a repeat of 2013 may well see more shuffling and uncertainty in the batting order, where only Smith and Warner are certain to survive (recall that Khawaja was dropped in Sri Lanka).

        But as I stated elsewhere, Australia are not as bad at home as some pundits think they are. South Africa has become their bogey team in Australia, but the next best touring team has just a W/L ratio of 0.27 over the past decade – and that includes a “difficult winter”. And with Hazlewood and Starc, they have potential to develop an extremely good bowling attack.

        Like

  8. Mark December 30, 2016 / 1:12 pm

    Just shows how poor England were not beating Pakistan in the summer at home!! Everyone wins at home these days.

    Reason 3478 why Cook should have been sacked. Perhaps we are going to waste yet another year. If the Aussies win back the Ashes next year with Cook still in charge it will be the final and appropriate Epitath to Cooks captaincy. And Strauss’s leadership, and Nasser’s punditry. A hatrick of idiocy.

    Liked by 2 people

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