Will Australia see the birth of Kohli’s legend?
He needs to tell himself that this series can be for him what the 1971 Windies tour was for Gavaskar.
One good thing about tough tours is that they often see the birth of legends. So in 1971, when nobody in his right senses would have given the Indian side touring the West Indies any chance of winning, they did the unthinkable, riding on an extraordinary performance by debutant Sunil Gavaskar. In 1985, even as the visiting England side outplayed us match after match, a lanky batsman enthralled us with his wrist-work, scoring three successive centuries on debut. India's 1989 tour of Pakistan saw the birth of India’s second little master, whom many now equate with Bradman. Our 1996 tour of England heralded the arrival of Dravid and Ganguly, the former perhaps the best Indian test batsman ever, while the latter the most aggressive Indian skipper.
The present Australian tour similarly carries the hope of witnessing history. Ever since Ganguly's departure from the Indian side, that one position in India's middle order hasn't found a permanent replacement. First, it was Yuvraj who tried to fill it up. Now of course, people have come to terms with the fact that Yuvraj may never acquire the temperament of a Test batsman. Then came Raina, who for all his natural brilliance was just as inexplicably erratic. Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, in comparison look hungrier and more determined contenders for that spot. Both have scored voraciously in the last one year and while Kohli might still have work to do on his technique, he more than makes up for it with his aptitude. But the point is can Kohli and Sharma replicate their ODI and T20 success at the Test level?
The sheer number of Odis and T20 matches that a batsman today plays before making his Test debut, sure takes a toll on his temperament. That's one reason why we haven't found someone as adept for Test matches as Dravid, Tendulkar or Laxman in the last decade. On the other hand of the spectrum, of course, is an irony called Sehwag, with technique and temperament which is tailor-made for the shorter version, but who is a much better performer in Test matches.
It is interesting to note that while the Indian batting line-up is most experienced and highly rated of all other teams, on foreign tours they very often don't click. Besides, with all our top batsmen past 35, we anyway desperately need a new middle-order batsman in the side, unless we want to stare at the situation which confronts the Aussie side today.
Ideally, for me, both Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli should be playing Test cricket. But given that there’s only one vacancy, Kohli looks set to get his chances first.
I would, in fact, place my bet on Kohli to fill up that slot for the next 10 or 15 years. At 23, Kohli, looks more mature for his age and has that ability to shift scoring gears rather effortlessly. While technically Sharma looks more compact, Kohli has a wider variety of scoring shots. Of course, he needs to work a bit on his stance, especially against pace bowling, besides being more discerning in leaving balls. I am sure Dravid and Tendulkar could help him with that.
What is more important is for Kohli to gear himself up mentally for this series. He needs to tell himself that this series can be for him what the 1971 Windies tour was for Gavaskar, the 1989 Pakistan tour for Tendulkar and the 1996 English tour for Dravid and Ganguly. Equally important is for him to show more foresight in chalking out a career plan. If he wants to enjoy the longevity of a Tendulkar or Dravid, maybe he will have to start picking and choosing his tournaments right away.
This Aussie tour should be the time for India to expect the arrival a new test batting hero. It’s time for Kohli to grab his tryst with cricketing history.
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