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Asia Cup 2014: Captain Marvel Virat Kohli scales new peaks

Virat Kohli essayed a splendid century against Bangladesh in Asia Cup 2014 9 AFP
Virat Kohli essayed a splendid century against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup 2014 © AFP

Virat Kohli scored a splendid century to guide India to victory against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup 2014 on February 26, 2014. He led from the front, as he scored his 19th One-Day International century. He is captaining India in the absence of MS Dhoni and although he has led the national team in only nine ODIs, his personal record is phenomenal. Shrikant Shankar looks at the numbers in Kohli’s fledgling captaincy career.

Captaincy is in cricket a great responsibility on your shoulders. Not everyone is made for it and fewer will ever get the chance to lead their side out into the middle. Generally, captains are players who are very good individually. As a captain, one needs to keep up with their individual performances and also ensure the team succeeds as a unit. Some have excelled being the captain and won many prizes. Australia enjoyed great success under Ricky Ponting, despite people not accepting his captaincy credentials. His personal form was as good as anyone, the game has ever seen.

Sachin Tendulkar is considered the greatest batsman of the modern era, but while captaining India, his record was well below his lofty standards. Sourav Ganguly also had a slightly better individual career, while not being captain, but he is seen as a fine leader amongst many. MS Dhoni is widely acknowledged as India’s best limited-overs captain. His records individually and India’s records under him are exceptional. So, captaincy in cricket has many facets to it than just making bowling and fielding changes.

Virat Kohli has been earmarked as India’s future captain for a long time. And while the writer has already explained about Kohli’s glorious chance to show his captaincy credentials prior to the Asia Cup 2014, this article focuses on his record as a captain so far. Kohli has led India in nine One-Day Internationals (ODIs) so far. His latest assignment was against Bangladesh in the second match of the tournament on February 26, 2014. In the absence of Dhoni and other senior players, Kohli led a young Indian team against potentially tricky hosts.

 

He won the toss and elected to send Bangladesh into bat. While they posted a total of 279 for seven in 50 overs, a few experts questioned some of Kohli’s bowling decisions. His choice of persisting with Varun Aaron confounded some commentators, as the pacer leaked a lot of runs while also bowling two beamers, one which hit Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim on the side of the ribcage. Bhuvneshwar Kumar did not finish his quota of overs and gave nearly half of Aaron’s runs. But Kohli is young and he will learn with time.

Kohli came out to bat at No 3 and along with Ajinkya Rahane essayed a 213-run partnership for the third wicket. That partnership was India’s record for the third-wicket against Bangladesh in ODIs. It was also India’s highest third-wicket stand in the Asia Cup. Rahane went onto score 73 off 83 deliveries. But Kohli top-scored with 136 runs off 122 deliveries. He struck 16 fours and two sixes. India won the match by six wickets. There seems to be no stopping Kohli at this moment. One could argue the opposition and the conditions, but you can only beat what is in front of you.

That was also Kohli’s 19th century in only 131 ODIs. The great Brian Lara scored a total of 19 centuries in 299 ODIs. But that was in a different era. So, let’s not compare Kohli with anyone, but just analyse his numbers. Kohli’s average in ODIs is a brilliant 52.65. He also has 30 half-centuries. But his record as captain is even better.

Below is a table showing Kohli’s batting record in ODIs as captain and on an overall basis:

Virat Kohli

M

R

Bat Ave

Strike rate

100s

50s

HS

Overall

131

5,581

52.65

89.91

19

30

183

As captain

9

468

78

98.31

3

1

136

Records accurate as of February 26, 2014.

One can see that Kohli has taken to captaincy like a fish to water. He tasted a heavy defeat in his very first ODI as captain to Sri Lanka. But since then, he has led India to eight victories on the bounce — one each against West Indies, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh; and five against Zimbabwe. Again, one could question the calibre of some of the opposition on view, but as it has already been said that you can only beat what is in front of you.

Kohli’s average as captain makes his overall record look rather ordinary. He has only one half-century, but has gone onto essay three hundreds. This shows that he is converting his starts into big scores. His strike-rate is phenomenal, but intriguingly as captain, it is even better. At a time when Dhoni’s captaincy has been questioned after a win-less run in South Africa and New Zealand,  people have called for Kohli to be made permanent captain. India won their first match in Asia Cup 2014 and they had Kohli at the centre of it.

There is no doubt that he is the best ODI batsman in the world at this moment. His chance to become permanent role as India’s captain will arrive soon — maybe after the ICC World Cup 2015. But if he continues his rich vein of form as captain, one could expect him to set and break even greater records. The remaining matches of the Asia Cup will show us a clearer picture of how good Kohli can be as a batsman and a captain. But there is no denying the fact that he is scaling higher peaks. One could call him the new Captain Marvel!

(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)

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