As 2015 bid adieu, individuals all over the world were seen meticulously scrutinising and assessing the faults of the previous year, in a bid to check them once the New Year began. Vowing to hone their failings, resolutions were written and rewritten; only to be scrapped and forgotten less than a week into 2016. Whilst the majority carried on leisurely, despite their promised pledges, a certain Virat Kohli strode over the nonchalance with grim determination.
Having notched up just over 1300 runs in 31 international matches at an average of 38.44 in twelve months, Kohli’s lack of form and consistent runs were endlessly debated upon, with his private life being mercilessly responsible as the reason for his continued “debacle”. Having started off as a brash Delhi right-hander, the batsman effortlessly transcended into the fulcrum of the Indian batting unit. Defined by insane levels of hyperkinetic energy, Kohli matured into an eerily dominating batsman, who revelled in pressure situations. By plundering away the toughest of bowlers in the most challenging pitches with a calm élan, one series after another, Kohli, in time raked in unbelievable numbers that constant comparisons with Sachin Tendulkar soon followed.
Conquering the toughest of situations with textbook style stroke play, the 28-year-old continues to send unbridled joy with each flick and cover drive. Just when Martin Crowe called him a “shooting star”, along with Kane Williamson, Joe Root and Steven Smith, stating that he would rule world cricket in the future, Kohli succumbed. The tour of England in 2014 exposed his shortcomings and his technical failures especially against James Anderson, who troubled him with late swing. Every time Anderson bowled off stump, near the corridor of uncertainty, Kohli’s footwork remained faulty and indecisive.
He put all doubts to rest in India’s tour Down Under later that year, in the same series when he was appointed as Test captain. Amassing 692 runs in four Test matches, Kohli carved a niche for himself in the cricketing sphere. Visibly perturbed after the England failure, the Delhiite was a resilient being, even forcing Mitchell Johnson to surrender to his aura.
However, in the months that followed, the 28-year-old refused to be his consistent self. The 50-over World Cup in Australia, where India failed to defend their title, started the inconsistent patch, which only instilled fears of the end of Kohli’s promising era even before it had actually blossomed.
Rattled and deeply affected, the Indian southpaw entered 2016 with greater vengeance and insatiable hunger. With the World Twenty20 being held at home and 13 Test matches till the year ended, India needed their primary batsman to be his ruthless best. Engulfed with responsibility, Kohli mastered his way through the obstacles, stamping his sole authority on world cricket. Brimming with ambition and dedication, the right hander corrected his mistakes to earmark himself as the best batsman of 2016.
Kohli continues his ODI form
Having started the year with a limited overs series against Australia down under, Kohli remained in enviable form throughout, notching up three centuries in ten One-Day International matches. While chasing, he, not surprisingly, averaged 101.75 in six games, with two hundreds to his name. Growing up without a signature shot, it is heartening to see the 28-year-old command supremacy in ODI cricket for well over three years. However, with more focus on Twenty20s and Tests this year, he had a limited number of games to further his astonishing ODI figures in 2016.
A revelation in T20 cricket
His real success came in the shortest format of the game this year. With 15 Twenty20 Internationals, along with 16 Indian Premier League matches, Kohli executed his stroke play to mesmerising effect. Even though he fails to be a big hitter of the ball like AB de Villiers or Chris Gayle, his controlled assurance of the shot and his awareness that six hitting is not his greatest strength, allows him to build an innings which is defined by an array of orthodox boundaries and quick singles.
What stands out is his self-confidence, where he carefully crafts his innings by starting slowly and later catching on with admirable effect with shots that would not look out of place in a Test match. By refusing to emulate his teammates in their six-hitting prowess, Kohli has stood as an inspiring personality who carefully manoeuvres the ball on all sides of the ground.
He became the first batsman to cross 4000 IPL runs this year, a season which was sprinkled with four hundreds, the most by any batsman. By reaching the three-figure mark in just 15 overs in an IPL game against Kings XI Punjab, and battling through a broken finger, Kohli gave proof of his undying mettle and his passion for clinching greater feats. Earlier, he single-handedly guided a below average Indian unit to the semi-finals of the World Twenty20, averaging a jaw-dropping 166.50 in successful run chases in T20Is, with his 89 against Australia being sprinkled with charismatic supremacy and singular focus.
Leading from the front in Test cricket
The hallmark of a great batsman is often measured by his statistics in the longest format of the game. His patchy form in Test cricket, excluding the series against Australia, often stopped an expert from rating him as the best player of the generation. Even though he had emphatically owned the shorter formats of the game, his contemporaries still edged ahead in Test cricket, with his inability to notch up big hundreds coming under the scanner.
True to his legacy, Kohli, India’s Test captain, remained remotely affected by the uncertainty paroling over his head. With a long Test season ahead, the onus was on the reliable batsman to battle his demons and answer critics once and for all. A few months later, he ends 2016 with three double hundreds, scored in three successive series, the first captain to have ever achieved this remarkable record. Even in Tests, he has refused to remain confined to a slow run rate, believing in frustrating the bowlers with quick singles.
Even after fielding for well over ten hours in Mumbai, Kohli batted for his 235 as if he was on a mission. En route his highest score, he also touched a Test batting average of 50 for the first time in his career. His rapid shuffles to ensure that his head remains in line with the delivery, or his adaptability in terse moments has enabled Kohli to even mark his territory in the whites. Changing gears from flat, lucid pitches to slow and low ones, the Indian has established himself as a player who fears no battles. He became only the first player since Rahul Dravid in 2011 to notch up 1000 Test runs by an Indian in a calendar year.
With 3642 runs in a single year, almost thrice as much as the runs he scored last year, Kohli is enjoying a thumping success across all formats that no player in recent times has enjoyed. No cricketer portrays his aggressive ambition after a dismal series as Kohli does. Be it constantly cheering his team mates on or shining the cherry; fiddling with the helmet before facing a ball or twirling his willow, impatiently awaiting the next ball, Kohli remains in the midst of every challenge with flamboyant responsibility. And this is why he is already on the path to unblemished stardom.