IPL 2018: RCB coach Trent Woodhill believes Virat Kohli and AB de Villier's are cricket's Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer

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The duo has been compared to the tennis greats. Image - ICC/Twitter.

Having never played cricket professionally himself, Trent Woodhill has as demanding a job title as one could ask for. Along with being the fielding coach of IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore, the Australian is also in charge of the ‘Batting Talent Development’.

For a side which includes arguably two of the very best batsmen going around in modern cricket in its ranks in the form of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, Woodhill couldn’t have asked for a better set of professionals to work with.

In an interview with Wisden India, Woodhill has described his amazement at working with the superstar pairing. Talking about Kohli, Woodhill believes that the India and Royal Challengers skipper deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as global sports superstars such as Roger Federer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

“He’s (Kohli) the most impressive sportsman I’ve had the pleasure to work with – in any sport. He’s in the same stratosphere as Roger Federer, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Messi. His approach to his own cricketing career and everything involved around it is extremely professional. It’s really a pleasure to work with,” Woodhill stated.

Explaining what separated Kohli from the rest of the pack, Woodhill said, “He’s (Kohli) definitely fitter than he’s ever been. What that allows you to do is under pressure, you’re able to replicate technique and replicate movement patterns.”

Woodhill believes Kohli is on the same level as Messi and Ronaldo.

Woodhill believes Kohli is on the same level as Messi and Ronaldo.

“So he’s less likely than others to play a lazy shot or not execute the way he’d like because his fitness and his mind is so sharp. And that’s where that brilliance lies. No doubt he’s extremely talented, so it’s not just hard work.”

While effervescent in his praise for Kohli, Woodhill has been equally impressed by De Villiers and believes the two batsmen are cricket’s equivalent to tennis’ all-time greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

“I first met AB in 2009 when I was at Delhi, and he trains smarter than anybody I’ve worked with. He’s mastered the art of replicating what he needs to do in a period of time in training to be able to move on. In Kohli and AB, you’ve got the Nadal and Federer of the cricket world. It’s tough to pick who is the best of them. AB and Federer share a similar DNA I think, and the same with Nadal and Kohli. The point’s never dead for Nadal, and the point’s never dead for Virat. And AB, he finds a way as Federer does, in conditions where others struggle,” he pointed out.

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Virat Kohli's five greatest knocks in IPL as he becomes tournament's top run-scorer

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Kohli surpassed Suresh Raina as IPL's top run-getter. Image: BCCI.

Virat Kohli is now the most successful batsman in IPL history. The Royal Challengers Bangalore captain broke the record on Tuesday during his knock of 92 not out against Mumbai Indians that took his IPL run tally past Suresh Raina to 4,619 runs.

His innings of 92 was not enough to secure victory for Bangalore. But there are numerous innings Kohli has played over the years for Bangalore that have secured incredible wins. Here are five of the best.

113 v Kings XI Punjab, May 18 2016

The highest T20 score for Kohli and one of his most courageous. In a rain-delayed match reduced to 15 overs a side, Kohli batted with nine stitches on his hand due to a split webbing. Kohli blasted 113 from 50 balls with 12 fours and eight sixes. It was the year Kohli amassed 973 runs in the T20 tournament.

108* v Rising Pune Supergiant, May 7 2016

Another vintage knock from a superlative 2016. Chasing 192 against Rising Pune Supergiant at home, Kohli took it upon himself to get the job done. He carried the bat during his knock that took only 58 balls and included eight hits to the fence and seven over it. The next best was 38 by fellow opener KL Rahul.

99 v Delhi Daredevils, May 10 2013

A knock that Kohli won’t forget. Kohli was playing the Daredevils at his original home ground in Delhi – the Feroz Shah Kotla. He was approaching his maiden T20 century but off the final ball of the first innings, was run out for 99. At least Bangalore kept their cool and managed to win by four runs.

62 v Mumbai Indians, April 14 2017

Not his highest score or a match-winning effort. But it was special as it was Kohli’s first outing since being sidelined for a month due to a shoulder injury. Kohli was the only batsman that challenged Mumbai in Bangalore to take the score to 142. Royal Challengers lost the game but Kohli was back.

58 v Deccan Chargers, April 8 2010

In a team that included Anil Kumble and Jacques Kallis, Kohli was still finding his feet. Batting first against Deccan Chargers, Kohli teamed up with Kallis (68) to help Bangalore post 184 with his knock of 58. It was his first IPL fifty the at Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore and the love story has since blossomed.

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IPL 2018: Run-machine Virat Kohli getting used to leading one-man batting army

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Virat Kohli became the top-scorer in IPL history during his knock of 92 against Mumbai Indians on Tuesday. He now has 4,619 runs from 153 IPL matches at an average of over 38. Also, he is the first batsman to cross the 200-run mark this IPL and is likely to add many more to that chart.

While Kohli the batsman reaches new heights each passing day, the gap between him and the rest of the players in his squad grows. This is not to say Kohli is better than AB de Villiers in the Royal Challengers Bangalore team. However, Kohli’s sustained brilliance does make some of his batting colleagues look less than flash, be it the IPL or national team.

Let’s take a look at the IPL this season. The 29-year-old made two record-setting fifties in four matches. The first was his knock of 57 against Rajasthan Royals which came off 26 balls – his fastest in the tournament’s history. Then on Tuesday, Kohli surpassed Suresh Raina as the most prolific batsman in the IPL. Two record-setting days for Kohli that ended in defeats for the Royal Challengers.

In the match against Mumbai, the next best after Kohli’s 92 was 19 by fellow opener Quinton de Kock. It is no wonder Kohli is feeling gutted despite being in peak form with the bat.

“I don’t feel like wearing this (Orange Cap given to every edition’s top scorer) right now because it really doesn’t matter,” Kohli said after the loss that was his team’s third in four matches.

As the years have gone by, the Royal Challengers have relied more and more on Kohli. AB de Villiers was excellent in 2015 (513 runs) and 2016 (687) but hasn’t crossed 400 runs in any other edition for Bangalore. Chris Gayle is not even part of the team anymore. Which means if Kohli is out, it’s more or less lights out.

A slightly less grim version of the situation in the Royal Challengers dressing room can be seen in the Indian team. The more Kohli has developed as a batsman, the more the Indian team has depended on him and his insatiable hunger for runs. So much so that below-par efforts of other batsmen get swept under the carpet. At least with the Indian team, other players have chipped in with useful contributions to ensure the healthy win percentage in red and white ball cricket.

LEADING THE WAY

In the last two years, Kohli has been by far the most successful batsman in the Indian team. During that time he has scored 2,560 runs in Tests, which is nearly 500 more than the next best – Cheteshwar Pujara. In ODIs, the gap is even bigger with his tally of 2,376 nearly 800 more than second-placed Rohit Sharma’s efforts. India are currently the top-ranked team in Tests and ODIs. And Kohli’s batting is a major reason behind it as there is not a single Indian batsman who comes near him across formats.

Both the Indian and Bangalore management know their team is relying on Kohli to score runs almost every single time. When he fails, the chances of the team failing rise dramatically. And in the last two matches in the IPL, even his ever-reliable bat couldn’t save Bangalore from defeat.

While we enjoy Kohli’s masterclass – be it in national or Royal Challengers colours – there is always the danger of getting transfixed by his batting and forgetting there are other players in the team who need to take the pressure off him. Kohli, lest we forget, is a human being.

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