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Virat Kohli – The Greatest One -Day Batsman?

If he isn't yet, he definitely is on his way to becoming 'The One".

Kohli completes his 30th ODI century, equaling Ponting's record. Source: indiatimes

Even a couple of years ago, this question would have seemed unfathomable. As magnificent as Virat Kohli’s record was, how could anyone come close to the other worldly exploits of the greatest One Day batsman – Sachin Tendulkar! After all, Tendulkar had started his career as a cherubic 16 year old, still not out of high school, and went on to play for almost a quarter of a century (just a short period of 24 years). His staggering mountain of runs – 18,426, with an astounding 49 centuries and an equally astonishing 96 half-centuries, at an average of 44.83 and a strike rate of 86.23 from a world record 463 matches, culminating in that epic innings of 200 not out would surely stand the test of time.

As nigh impossible as it seemed, last Sunday, that scenario took the shape of a distinct possibility. As Kohli completed his 30th ODI ton in his 186th innings, drawing level with Australian legend’s Ricky Ponting’s (who took almost double the no. of innings at 365) in second spot, with only the “little master” ahead of him, it became apparent that the once unthinkable could one day be matched if not surpassed.

To be fair, Kohli had shown us with his phenomenal performances over the past 5 years in this format that he could be a great batsman, but the “Greatest”? That would be something else entirely. While Kohli is still a fair distance away from his more illustrious predecessor, almost 10,000 odd runs behind (Kohli has 8587 runs from 194 matches), with a splendid average of 55.75 and supreme fitness, he should be able to reach the pinnacle of one day batsmanship. That is assuming that he doesn’t have a drastic drop in form and remains injury free for most part. He is already considered to be India’s fittest ever cricketer (though Kapil Dev might have a word or two to say about that) and should he play till the age of 40 (he is only 28 going on 29)- the age when Tendulkar hung up his boots- he will in all probability shatter every one of his idol’s One- Day records. Just to compare the two batting stalwarts at the same stage-Kohli has 8587 runs with 30 centuries as compared to Tendulkar who had scored 6942 runs with ‘only’ 16 centuries. Kohli’s superior average (55.75 to 40.59), strike rate (91.72 to 85.33) and half centuries (44 to 42) put him well ahead of his legendary countryman.

Only the incomprable Sachin Tendulkar is ahead of him with 49 ODI tons. Source: Cricketlove

But statistics alone don’t define how great a player is. It is also when and where these runs are scored that cement a legacy. At the showpiece event of One Day Internationals – The World Cup, Tendulkar has been India’s driving force and batting mainstay for nearly all the World Cups he’s been a part of (6 in total). While he did miss out on playing a match winning innings on both occasions when India reached the WC final (’03 & ’11), he is the all time leading run scorer in World Cup history and had also topped the batting charts for most runs in the 1996 and 2003 editions. (Rahul Dravid topped the batting charts in 1999). By that same token, Kohli is yet to set the world ablaze in the most prestigious tournament in the One Day Format. (He scored 282 runs in the 2011 WC and 305 runs in the 2015 event). He will however get the opportunity to right that record should he play in the 2019, 2023 and 2027 editions.

Kohli has already been acknowledged as the “Chase Master” in the limited overs format- a mantle originally held by Australian Michael Bevan- and should he continue in the same vein, and add the World Cup title and deliver in the “big final”, there will be no doubt then as to who the mantle of the greatest one day batsman of all time will belong to.

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