Virat Kohli glided past 10,000 ODI runs in the second match of the current series against Windies at Visakhapatnam. It seemed just as effortless as everything else in his now illustrious ODI career. And he broke the record for the fastest to the landmark by 54 innings. He is, and this isn’t hyperbole, the greatest ODI batsman of all time.
It isn’t a question of if he claims every single ODI batting record, it is just a matter of when. He is 29-years-old and just about the fittest cricketer in the world. As we have seen from his career thus far he doesn’t lack the drive or passion for playing cricket so he won’t be giving up anytime soon. In fact, the only thing that will stop him will be the cricketing world deciding to do away with 50-over cricket and just having Tests and T20 matches.
Let’s just spend a moment to look at the numbers. Kohli made his ODI debut in August 2008. In that time, he has scored 10,076 runs. The next best on that list is Hashim Amla with 7,671. He averages 59.62 in the format, comfortably the best average for any player who has scored 2,000 runs or more. To sustain that level of performance over more than 200 matches is beyond remarkable. And this figure isn’t because he has got a load of not outs batting at five or six in the order, this has been achieved by just scoring a boatload of runs against every opponent in every country.
Kohli has 37 ODI hundreds, the second most on the all-time list, and just 12 behind Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 49. He scores a hundred every 5.5 innings. By comparison, Tendulkar managed a hundred every 9.2 innings. Kohli’s closest contemporary in terms of ODI perfection – Hashim Amla – manages a hundred every 6.5 innings.
In 2018 the Delhi batsman has scored 1046 runs at an average of 149.42, at a strike rate of 103.87 including five hundreds from 11 innings. The real worry for his opponents is that he is actually getting better.
It is when you look at his performances in the second innings of a match that he steps it up another level again. Kohli has 6,032 runs batting second in ODIs, that is the second most ever in just 123 innings. He has an average of 68.54 when batting second, the best ever by any player who has batted 20 times in a chase. He has 22 hundreds in the second innings, the most by any batsman - five more than Tendulkar.
Batting has taken on new dimensions over the time that Kohli has been an ODI player. T20 has played a part in changing what is now achievable. It won’t be long before a team passes 500 runs in an ODI innings, something that would have been inconceivable a decade ago. But this does not diminish from Kohli’s achievements.
What humans can achieve in the field of sports has always seen a steady line of improvement and seen rapid upticks over certain short periods. Those that are at the forefront of that improvement are all the more impressive for being the ones that have led the charge. That Kohli is the very best of the current crop of outstanding batsmen says so much about his ability.
It is the inevitability of Kohli’s success in ODIs that is the most remarkable thing about it. He succeeds so regularly that failure comes as a surprise. He is a fantastic Test batsman, he is superb in T20s, but in ODIs is when he reaches otherworldly levels of brilliance. The way he can manipulate a field to open up areas where he wants to score, how he can move up and down the gears in a way few other batsmen can manage, that he is the absolute master of pacing an innings when chasing a total. It is all of this that puts him head and shoulders above any player to have taken the field in One Day Internationals.
This level of brilliance could get boring, but that is where Kohli also comes out on top. He is an endlessly fascinating cricketer to watch. He bristles with competitiveness, can sometimes say and do the wrong thing in the heat of the battle and is all the more entertaining as a result. Watching Kohli play cricket is great, but you have to think watching him eat his breakfast, reading a newspaper or any other mundane daily tasks would be as enjoyable. He would even make opening a can of Coca-Cola seem exciting.
We are just seven months away from the next 50-over World Cup in England. We have already seen that Kohli has overcome any issues he may have had in that particular country with his amazing efforts last summer. He goes into that tournament as comfortably the best ODI batsman in the world, the owner of a record that is second to none and the chance to stamp his name on a World Cup like no one has ever done before. He has a minimum of nine matches and could potentially play in 11. If he hits that tournament in the right kind of form he could break another Tendulkar record, the most runs in a World Cup. It stands at 672 from the 2003 tournament, he could breeze past that as well.
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