By Kishan Vaghela
One-Day International cricket has made somewhat of a resurgence in the last few years. The middle overs would often pass by without event, so much so that critics would almost accuse players of some sort of dereliction. Nevertheless, it has been easier to document the manner in which limited overs cricket has been revived than it has to designate the finest performer in this form of the game.
India’s captain Virat Kohli is the latest name to appear in this proclaimed list of specialists in One-Day cricket, and with good reason. His 122 against England in Pune was his 27th ODI hundred, putting him just one behind former Sri Lanka opener Sanath Jayasuriya and three behind former Australia captain Ricky Ponting in the overall ODI hundreds annals. Even though equalling the 49 centuries hit by fellow countryman Sachin Tendulkar still seems like an unrealistic achievement for Kohli, the 28-year-old has revolutionised the way the game is portrayed across the globe.
Nasser Hussain gazed in awe with his batting masterclass with the Indian maestro broadcast on Sky Sports. The former England batsman has always admired Kohli’s insatiable appetite for scoring runs, and the consistency he performs with despite the many additional off-field commitments he now attends to as captain. Therefore, to discover his slight technical adjustments in limited overs cricket as the difference maker was astonishing, yet subtly convenient as symbolic of perhaps what Kohli has brought to the shortest format.
Gripping the bat with a slight change to the hand position may seem minor, but it allows Kohli to use his flexible wrists to score where others simply cannot. AB de Villiers possesses a similar trait, his hands allowing him to play 360 degree shots. Slight adjustments that have made these two players household names.
Many batsmen before have had this voracious yearning for runs, and many in the future will too. That has not separated these two from the rest of the world’s cricketers. Innovation has been the benchmark to upgrade a player’s performance level, and these two beguile with the array of strokes they both play given their painstaking batting sessions.
Another highly recognised feature of Kohli’s batting arguably sees his efforts unrivalled. Seventeen of Kohli’s 27 hundreds have come in chases, fifteen of which have ended in victory. Achieving this landmark in 96 innings surpasses Tendulkar’s fourteen centuries in 124 second innings, and given that he has 27 centuries in 85 fewer matches than The Little Master, his credentials really come to the fore.
De Villiers’ pedigree is undoubtable, 24 hundreds in 197 innings a remarkable return for South Africa’s stalwart in recent times. He is more explosive than his Indian counterpart, with six-hitting a major attribute to the 32-year-old South African, which makes him a more dangerous proposition when in form. However, South Africa’s performances in the latter stages major tournaments, the latest being the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, have unfairly seen de Villiers unable to rival the accolades Kohli has gained so far in his career, which include a World Cup and a Champions Trophy.
With AB de Villiers beset by injuries for the past few months, and Kohli’s stellar 2016, which saw him score 739 runs, including three centuries, at an average of 92.37, comparison would clearly favour Kohli since the World Cup.
We cannot produce a definitive answer as to the greatest ODI player of all-time, but 2017 will offer more insight onto whether these two can reach even greater prizes. Kohli thanked Tendulkar for “carrying the burden of the nation” after the 2011 World Cup victory. It seems as though Kohli and AB de Villiers are jointly carrying one of more substantial weight and value, that of the future of ODI cricket.
Photograph: Creative Commons via Wikimedia