Virat Kohli is going through an excellent phase in Twenty20 cricket. The consistency with which he has been scoring the runs, I don’t think anyone else has.
He is going through a purple patch and the best part about it is he is scoring all these runs without taking risks. Not only is he scoring big, his strike rate is around 130-140, which is amazing. Many players can hit big shots and look intimidating in T20s but very few can eliminate risk from their batting and still score runs at such a good rate.
The way he is playing, there is no doubt Virat will become one of the greatest Indian batsmen.
His performance in this IPL has been superb and it is evident that he knows exactly where his strengths lie. Another thing going in his favour is he has that cushion of big hitters in the Royal Challengers Bangalore side. With batsmen like AB de Villiers and Shane Watson there to provide the fireworks towards the end of an innings, Kohli knows he can bat more ‘normally’.
He has the option of pacing his innings for 12-15 overs and then change gears according to the situation. And when the death overs come, Virat has the ability to score at a rate of 180 or even 200.
This mixture of knowing his strengths and having explosive batsmen in the team has allowed Kohli to play his natural game throughout the IPL.
His love for batting was clearly evident even at a very young age. During his U19 days, he loved to play the big innings and never liked getting out.
The desire to score big has resulted in his prolific record in international cricket. He is only 27 and has many good years of batting ahead of him. But already he has 25 centuries in limited overs cricket while in Tests he has 11 tons from less than 50 matches, a tally many players don’t manage in their entire careers.
And in T20s, he has had a brilliant year, being the top-scorer in international matches (625 runs from 13 T20s).
There was just thing missing – a T20 century. When I met him the last time, I told him that you have done so much but haven’t scored a ton in T20 cricket. Virat had said then that he wasn’t getting a lot of opportunities to bat the full 20 overs. But this IPL, with him batting at the top of the order, he got that chance and ticked the century box as well.
The biggest change that I have seen in his batting, compared to when he started as a young batsman in my state side Delhi, is his technique outside the off stump. If you remember, during the England tour of 2014 he regularly got out to full balls outside the off stump. He identified that weakness and worked on it. He spent a lot of time with Sachin Tendulkar to iron out those flaws and even India’s batting coach Sanjay Bangar helped Virat tighten his game up. This has resulted in him converting a weakness into a strong point and this is why he has become so good.
For some players, the added responsibility of captaincy might be too heavy a burden but for Virat, it has not affected his batting style at all. He had been scoring runs before being made India’s Test captain and now after it as well.
The only change that the captaincy might have brought to Virat’s game is the knowledge that he is the leader and players look up to him. The respect he is now getting as a leader has given him a greater boost as a batsman. You want to go out there and perform in each and every game.
But we must remember one thing. Virat is relatively new in the world of captaincy, especially in international cricket, and we must not weigh him down with too many expectations. Yes, he is in line to take over from Mahendra Singh Dhoni as and when the wicketkeeper hangs up his gloves but Virat the captain is yet to be tested in England and South Africa. How he fares against those challenges will define his leadership.