We all know that Virat Kohli is good. But is he the best?
While many may find the debate a little premature, the legendary Kapil Dev feels there’s no point in beating around the bush any more. India’s 1983 World Cup-winning captain, in a column for Mid-Day on Wednesday placed Kohli one step ahead of all-time greats such as Viv Richards, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara and yes, you guessed it, Sachin Tendulkar.
Admitting that he is in awe of the “phenomenon called Kohli”, Kapil said India’s Test captain has grown into a “performer whose benchmarks would be near impossible to match”.
During the 37-ball 55 against Pakistan at a packed Eden Gardens on Wednesday, Kohli showed that not only can he soak up pressure, he thrives under it. On a pitch where the ball was turning from Madison Square in New York to Maddox Square in Kolkata, the 27-year-old settled India’s nerves and a batting line-up that was in danger of an implosion. Under the lights of Eden against a very good bowling attack, he calmly steered India home and resurrected the hosts’ World T20 campaign. What’s more, where rest of his peers from both sides were struggling on a devilish pitch, Kohli seemed be playing on a different strip, hardly touched by the vagaries.
It convinced Kapil that he can transcend boundaries at will.
“The more I see of Virat the one step ahead of some of the greats like Richards, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting. Let there be a debate but I am clear in my opinion that Virat, despite achievers like Joe Root and Kane Williamson, is the best in business in contemporary cricket in all three formats of the game. He will grow into the best of all time because of his awesome potential to adapt without fuss,” the former India captain wrote in Mid-Day.
Kapil, who had always led by example as a leader, felt Kohli’s ability to remain unflustered under pressure comes from the confidence he builds in the dressing room. And in situations where even the best of them wilt under the burden of expectations, Kohli manages to hold his nerve. Consequently, he is rarely hustled into a false first-ball stroke, said Kapil.
One of the best all-rounders of his time and among the best ever, Kapil should know a thing or two about batting and he felt Kohli’s ability to use the crease sets him apart from the rest of the pack.
“To me the outstanding feature of Virat’s batting is his use of the crease. He is the lord of the crease and that gives him the freedom to always look for runs. This quality transfers the pressure to the bowlers because he tends to defy the field with ridiculous ease,” he wrote.
And not just Kapil.
Kohli’s meteoric rise to the top has not escaped the notice of the game’s former greats. His innings against Pakistan last Saturday drew praise from all over the world.
“Virat is a special player. He holds the team together. You have top guys like Rohit (Sharma), Suresh (Raina), Yuvraj (Singh) but the way Virat has played over the last six seen years, he is at another level,” former India captain Sourav Ganguly was quoted, as saying by IBNlive.
Former Pakistan captain Inzamam Ul-Haq, a no mean batsman himself, felt Pakistan need someone like Kohli to motivate the team which of late have made it a habit to lose against arch-rivals India.
“The current Pakistan team lacks motivation. It needs someone like a Kohli who can lead them from front and motivate other players. The talent, the players are there in Pakistan but they need a big player like Kohli. Like we had Wasim bhai (Akram) in our days,” Inzamam said.