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Don and dusted by Virat Kohli

The Indian Express logoThe Indian Express 11-02-2017
© Reuters

The stat popped up ever so casually on the telly. Virat Kohli had marched on imperiously into cricketing history by becoming the first batsman to reel off double tons in four successive series when a list of names propped up. Kohli was perched on the top, and below him was Don Bradman, who had piled three in a row.

It was startling at first. What, an Indian has become the first to break the Don’s record? Sachin Tendulkar never did it. As the surprise settled down, and the rest of the day whizzed by with Indians reaching a mammoth 687 and began squeezing Bangladesh with the fall of Soumya Sarkar, the mind went back to Don and Virat. Would any young Indian really think it’s such an extraordinary deal? Perhaps, that’s the achievement of Kohli in itself. Stripping staggering accomplishments of its gravitas.

Scores: India vs Bangladesh

The first time any Indian erased a Bradman stat was when Sunil Gavaskar went past him in the number of hundreds. It was a matter of nationalist pride of a young cricketing nation then. A wave of expectation had been building up before that and an incredulous state of mind set in along with celebration. The hundred tally is of course a bigger achievement than a spate of double tons in a season as the latter comes in a great run of form but four in a row? Who does it? As it turns out, just him.

Not even the Don had done it. When you cross Don, you cross over into a special territory. No wonder the likes of Ricky Ponting and Michael Vaughan have been raving about him like love-sick puppies.

Someone should tell one of his numerous brands he endorses to run a campaign on the lines of: Stripping staggering accomplishments of its gravitas, since 2015. Or something like that. These days his knocks also have that feel about them. The surety of touch makes it feel like a re-run of a favourite show, as one wrote yesterday. As he has negated all the variables in batting at least in these conditions.



This negation happened with Tendulkar in the latter half of his career albeit in a different way. Tendulkar had cut out the risks from his game, shed flamboyance. Growing up, it was said that, his batting had a mix of Viv Richards and Sunil Gavaskar with the King Viv dominating in the first half. By the end, he had left the Richards persona behind, and went the way of Gavaskar. Kohli wasn’t a prodigy and so he wasn’t burdened or viewed with similar prisms.

© AP

However, the thing with Kohli is this: He has managed to negate the variables in his batting without doing what Tendulkar did. He hasn’t cut out risks, he hasn’t erased some shots from his armoury, he hasn’t insured his batting against calamity in self-depriving ways. Kohli hasn’t shed much but has developed a system of batting that allows him to make it appear as if he is not over-extending himself at all. Perhaps, such was the initial dazzle and razzmatazz in Tendulkar’s batting that the change in approach seemed such a big deal. May be. Kohli wasn’t a genius when growing up but has pulled himself up with such discipline and insane ambition that his batting today doesn’t suggest any self-imposed shackles. When Tendulkar settled into Gavaskar persona, it seemed he had downsized himself to cut out the risks from batting. With Kohli, when he eschews risks and makes it look like as if he is batting within himself, it feels like he has upsized.

All this salivating isn’t about the last of his double hundreds of course. By itself, it won’t probably stand the test of time if not for the historic achievement. The bowling didn’t have the venom needed to break through on this track but in a different sense it was like any other Kohli knock. All the usual shots came out but he didn’t stretch himself again. There was nothing outlandish, no shot you could say he was playing for the gallery, or for his own indulgence.

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If anything, there was this shot that he played a few times—the stylish spunky whip from outside-off to the leg side that hinted at what he felt about this bowling attack. Time and again, to full deliveries, he would let his instinct take over at the last instant and do the thing he does with the bottom-hand—whip and the ball would plummet well to the left of mid-on fielder and at times, when the mood seized him, rush to the left of midwicket.

For a modern great in ODIs, it wasn’t surprising to see him step up the gear in search of quick runs to put India far ahead in the game. He sashayed down the track to loft, pressed back to crash the spinners and seamers, and stretched forward for his cover drives. To go past Don used to be a big deal in India once. That it feels almost just another stat now is what this in-character knock in Hyderabad would be remembered for.

850 runs, strike rate of 70.08, 345 singles, 93 fours and just one six. Sustained aggression and urgent running between the wickets have been the quintessence of Kohli’s double-hundred binge

Upping the ante: All four of Virat Kohli’s double hundreds have come at a brisk pace, which implies that he doesn’t seek a different, or a more moderate approach in pursuit of big knocks. He has, on an average, scored at 70.08, which even by modern-day ODI yardstick is fast. The fastest of the four was his latest effort, wherein he kicked along at a rate of 82.92. The slowest, that is relatively, among the lot was his 211against New Zealand at Indore, which came at a pace of 57.65.

Clear priorities: Typically, his double hundreds featured just a solitary six–which came in his 235 (also his highest score) against England in Wankhede. However, there were as many as 93 boundaries, that is 43.76 percentage of his runs (850). This also brings us to another facet of his batting—by now his familiar appetite for singles and twos. Collectively, he accumulated 345 singles in these four innings.

Quick amends: Kohli’s first seven hundreds were all below 120. Of the first 11, there was just one score over 150 (169 versus Australia in Melbourne). But he ensured that his next five hundreds were all 150-plus scores including four double hundreds.

Faster than legends: Just to put Kohli’s staggering feat into perspective. While he took only 54 Tests, Brian Lara completed his fourth double-hundred plus score in his 83rd Test that . Tendulkar completed it in his 119th Test; Ponting in his 85 and Kumar Sangakkara in his 61st.

1168 Kohli has racked up these many Test runs at home this season in 15 innings at a blinding average of 89.84, thus overtaking former opener Virender Sehwag’s 1105 from 17 innings in the 2004-05 season. This is also the most by any batsman at home in a single season. Also, only Brian Lara (5) has scored more double hundreds as skipper than him.

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