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Yet another series and yet another occasion for Virat Kohli to dazzle. Abhijit Banare looks at what does this England series mean to Kohli and what the team looks forward to.
One of the easier ways to kickstart a discussion over Indian team is to blindly broach the topic of Virat Kohli’s value to the Indian side; and the discussion seamlessly meanders along from thereon. Ahead of the five-Test series, in an otherwise low profile maintained by the Indian team, Kohli still hogs the limelight as India begin.
This is the first time the blue-eyed boy will be playing Tests in England. Last time around he was still searching for a place in the XI. Three years later he is the mainstay of the batting and will be eager to emulate at least if not more than what Rahul Dravid did in 2011 — three tons.
Virat Kohli records in Tests so far
It’s still early days to compare the numbers with greats and draw too many inferences. Kohli’s numbers are evenly matched at home and in overseas conditions.
What makes Kohli impressive is that he has lived up to the expectations and performed consistently. Just when there were murmurs about his performance in overseas conditions, Kohli came up with impressive performances in the Rainbow nation and in New Zealand.
If you were to sit back and count the places where an Indian cricketer would dream to succeed, then Australia, South Africa and England would certainly feature in the top three. Kohli has already attained respectable performances in these conditions. The Adelaide ton will be etched in history. The performance in South Africa has been a touch underrated. India have been poor starters overseas losing 35 of the 72 first Tests till date. There haven’t been many centurions in those Tests either. Most of the batsmen who feature in that list are legends for India. Kohli achieved that feat since Rahul Dravid in 2011. Pujara repeated it in a matter of few days in the same Johannesburg Test.
What to expect in this series?
The opening combination still remains tentative for India since the Sehwag-Gambhir combo. What looks certainty is the performance of No. 3 and No. 4 with Cheteshwar Pujara and Kohli. There is no shortage of talent when it comes to the young Indian top order but it is the sound technique which makes Pujara and Kohli reliable than others.
In his column for The Telegraph last evening, Kevin Pietersen too highlighted the role of Kohli and Pujara if the visitors were to taste success. He defined their value in a single sentence. “Pujara hurts you slowly but Kohli can devastate an attack.” Pietersen also remembered how hungry Kohli has been in the run-up to this tour. All these elements matter a lot in the end result.
The only hint of concern is the ability to be consistent. India are playing five Test-series for the first time since 2002. Kohli is used to the short version of Test series thanks to the power of the board that administers the sport in India. Sustaining the fitness, handling the pressure and dealing different conditions for such a long duration will be a challenge Kohli would be looking forward to.
Not too long ago, there would be a deafening noise in stadiums in India at the fall of the second wicket and a deadly silence when the No. 4 batsman used to walk back to the pavilion. It’s a different history altogether, but it’s good to know that the No. 4 still holds equal value if not more even today. A success here will take one step closer to the respect that many legends attained over the years.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)
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