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Comment: I should really dislike Virat Kohli, but I can’t

The Roar logo The Roar 22/01/2016 Brett McKay

Virat Kohli has been in cracking form for India. © Darrian Traynor/Getty Images Virat Kohli has been in cracking form for India.

It almost feels like a birthright. If they’re the best player on the opposition side, then there really is no reason for you to like them. Works for football, works for cricket, works for marbles.

If they’re beating the team you follow or play for – that is, the good guys – then they can only be labelled as the villain. And no-one likes bad guys, right?

So booo, opposition bad guy, BOOO!

This generally irrational position is made easier when said opposition bad guy is arrogant, or mouthy back to the good guys. Or even worse, just really good.

The more they dominate, the louder you boo. Don’t blame me, it’s the rules.

Occasionally, though, the opposition bad guy is actually a really good guy. And this makes the whole ‘thou shalt dislike’ commandment very awkward. Difficult, even.

In cricket circles in recent years, there’s been a few of these opposition bad guys who are good guys. AB de Villiers is one. Ian Bell is one. Kumar Sangakkara is definitely one. Brendon McCullum was a bad guy until he became a good guy. Stuart Broad is becoming a good guy.

(For the record, Jimmy Anderson is still a bad guy. So’s Dale Steyn. And Ishant Sharma. And that guy 15 years ago who always got me out.)

Virat Kohli ticks all the opposition bad guy boxes. Arrogant. Mouthy. Competitive. Really, really good…

And yet, he’s a joy to watch.

If India were going to be any chance of chasing down Australia’s mammoth 348 in Canberra on Wednesday, Kohli had to go big. Others would have to contribute, of course, but if India were to get anywhere near seven runs an over to win, it had to be off Kohli’s blade.

And it damn near was.

Such was the ease with which Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan were reigning in the Australian total, that even before the 20th over we were discussing in the press box just how many overs – not balls – India would have up their sleeve when the target was reached.

Dhawan was 24* when Kohli came to the crease, and he did bat very well. Extremely well, in fact. There was no surprise that Dhawan got his hundred, only that he managed to beat Kohli to the milestone.

Kohli was only ten runs behind when Darwan raised his fifty, and in the mid-70s, there was only one run between them. They entered the 90s together, and had Kohli had the strike at the start of the 31st over instead of Dhawan, it’s entirely probable that Kohli would’ve got to three figures first.

Instead, Kohli took another 18 balls to bring up his hundred, though at that stage – 1-261 in the 36th over – it hardly made a dent in India’s charge to 349 to win.

Kohli’s record, 25 ODI hundreds and 8000 runs in 170 matches across eight years, speaks for itself. Any reason why he couldn’t double all those figures before his career is done? None, the way he’s hitting them currently.

And to put 25 ODIs in context, Kohli’s 25th ton came in his 162nd ODI innings. Only Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Sanath Jayasuriya, and Sangakkara have made 25 or more ODI hundreds, and the previous quickest was Tendulkar, who took 234 innings.

Fifteen of his 25 hundreds came when chasing a total. Seven of them he finished not out, and India won all seven. In fact, of the 15 centuries in a run chase, India won 13 times. Wednesday night was just the second time India lost when Kohli made a ton.

When he gets in this vein of form, he plays like few other batsmen on the planet. Kane Williamson might similarly have every shot, and Joe Root might also make it look effortless. AB de Villiers can certainly be as destructive. But Kohli on his day tops them all.

It’s the confidence, the swagger, the way he carries himself. He projects a body language that we really haven’t seen in a touring Indian batsman before. Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman might have had elements, but again, not the way Kohli does.

It’s just that presence about him, a real aura around him that probably does make him look like he’ll never get out.

And I love it.

I love that his eye is so strong, and hands so quick that even when a bowler beats him for a millisecond, he’s good enough to alter his shot. I love that he doesn’t just hit sixes, he obliterates sixes. They don’t just carry the rope, they go rows and rows back.

I love that he told James Faulkner he was wasting his time the other day, and that he added, “I’ve smashed you enough in my life. No point. Just go and bowl.”

Kohli’s competitive, he’s abrasive, and he doesn’t take a backward step. He won’t die wondering, and India will become an imminently more dangerous limited-overs side when he takes the captaincy over from MS Dhoni properly.

He’s the opposition’s best player, and so I should dislike him, if I follow the rules. But I can’t. He’s a wonderful cricketer, and when he’s on, he’s absolutely brilliant to watch.

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