The Kohli Patch

Virat Kohli is at the very top of his game. The numbers don’t lie. He seems to be bang in the middle of a ‘purple patch’. Or is it?? This phrase was used back in the day to describe a cricketer (applies to all other professions as well) who was playing out of their skin and was having an extraordinary run either with the bat or the ball or both. Everything they touched during this period turned to gold. This equated to in cricketing terms with runs flowing off of the blade of a batsman with seemingly minimal or no effort whatsoever and in case of a bowler the five-fers and ten wicket hauls materializing almost at will.

This pronouncement was made though by cricket commentators and pundits with the safe foreknowledge that the purple patch lasted only for a limited time and one was merely riding a crest and would end up at the bottom of a trough sooner than later.

Virat Kohli might just be the one who will go down in history as somebody who was instrumental in the deprecation of this vaunted phrase. The issue here is that the run Kohli has had for the better part of two years now has nothing ordinary to it and doesn’t seem to obey the law of averages. He has churned out runs off of his willow like nobody’s business and with mind boggling consistency. He boasts of a  batting average in excess of 50 in all three formats!. Utterly dominant, occasionally imperious, reminiscent of  a category 5 hurricane he simply has been unstoppable.

The greatest athletes are intrinsically consummate showmen albeit they have different ways of expressing that flair. They live for the big moments and nothing gives them more satisfaction than to light the stage afire and mesmerize the audience with a display of their talent, skills and style. Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, John McEnroe, Shane Warne, Sir Ian Botham, Sir Vivian Richards, Kapil Dev, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Michael Schumacher, Valentino Rossi, Pele, Diego Maradona, Cristiano Ronaldo are only a few examples of great champions whose sole driving force was to dominate the opposition and put on a show every time they stepped onto their respective arenas. Nothing gave them more pleasure and satisfaction than the sight of a jubilant audience. One could also ascribe their longevity in their careers to this very trait. They were all showmen of the highest caliber.

Virat is no different. He lives to strut his stuff and entertain the doting public. There is no bigger adrenaline rush for him than to put the opposition bowling to sword (the bigger the bowler the more he relishes the occasion) or stealing that extra run every time there is even a hint of opportunity to flaunt his stellar physicality. He wants to not only show-off his mad cricket skills, his superlative fitness and endurance, cricketing acumen but also his leadership chops especially after he assumed responsibility of captaining the Indian Test and ODI teams.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

Not all of the great champions love to lead. Some are born to lead and nobody embodies that assertion better than Virat Kohli. He has taken to captaincy like duck to water. He announced his ascension to the top job by scoring a century in each inning on foreign soil (against the Aussies) on what was a fortuitous debut as captain of the test team. The centuries ended up in a losing cause but his ton in the second innings was feted by the Aussie commentators as the best second innings knock they had ever witnessed. He ended up with 692 runs on that tour the most by any Indian batsman in a test series in Australia. This was his way of announcing to his team and the world of the kind of cricket they should expect to play and witness from the Indian team under his helmsmanship. He was leading by example.  It was well and truly the onset of the Kohli era. His overall record as captain speaks for itself. He has come out victorious in 15 of the 23 tests (65% wins) he has captained thus far and a string of 19 unbeaten matches to boot. His record in ODI’s as captain is nothing less with 16 wins out of 20 outings. He also has built a reputation for being the ‘finisher’ with a phenomenal track record while chasing down totals in clinical fashion. His individual performances after assuming the mantle of leadership have gone from great to legendary. The long and short of it is that he just craves pressure. He thrives under pressure, courts a challenge, relishes a target, and the bigger the occasion the more audacious he gets.

Great leaders inspire greatness in their personnel and that is precisely what Virat has done with his teammates. Virat’s energy and work ethic have been contagious and the team seems to be completely bought in on his vision and approach. The Indian team of today comprises of match winners in their own right in the likes of Ashwin who are in absolute sync with the captains philosophy that you play to win. The fielding standards and overall fitness of the boys is second to none. Every player in the team seems to know their role and understand the expectations from them while assured in the fact that the captain is backing them to the hilt. The biggest change that I’ve observed from yesteryears is Kohli’s unflinching faith and confidence in his speedsters which seems to have paid rich dividends. The Indian quicks used to be almost an after thought in the years gone by. That has changed 180 degrees. The way the Indian quicks have developed under Kohli is a case study in itself of the transformational effects of great leadership. The pace bowling unit is now a potent weapon and force to be reckoned with both home and abroad. Their recent performances have vindicated Virat’s gambit resoundingly.

He is 28 years old and by all accounts has at the very least a good 8 years in him if not more. The manner in which he takes care of his body (diet, exercise and recovery), the work ethic he possesses (constantly working at his game and leading by example), the happy personal space he seems to be enjoying and the maturity he has exhibited outside the cricket field all point to someone who is destined to become perhaps the ‘Don’ of cricket (all puns intended!).

He still has a few frontiers to conquer and a few demons of the past to exorcise (read England travails). One would have to be a fool to bet against this man and his indomitable spirit. The Aussies are next and I for one will buckle up and enjoy the ride.

The Indian Captain seems to be in the middle of a ‘Kohli Patch’. I hope it never ends.