Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma show preview of India's forthcoming attractions!

Generation Next…. Virat Kohli (left) and Rohit Sharma © Getty Images


By Nishad Pai Vaidya


India’s sensational victory over Pakistan on Sunday was a trailer to forthcoming attractions. It was almost as if the baton was passed on to Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma by Sachin Tendulkar. The hope that Tendulkar has epitomised over the years is increasingly shared by the young middle-order.


There is, arguably, no greater pressure in sports than an India-Pakistan cricket match. This is not merely a game of cricket; it’s much more than that, where the emotions of the bitter days of Partition and subsequent wars between the two come into the equation. Indeed, its war minus shooting. And when Pakistan set an imposing target of 330, it looked curtains for India who came into the game with a loss against Bangladesh.


Kohli doesn’t cease to amaze the cricket world with his batting exploits. If one thought the century at Hobart against Sri Lanka was his ultimate essay – something that wouldn’t be replicated for some time – one couldn’t be more wrong. Although Kohli puts the two knocks – the unbeaten 133 at Hobart and the183 against Pakistan on Sunday – on an equal footing, Indian fans may rate his latest effort a little higher.


The two Kohli centuries are reminiscent of Tendulkar’s twin hundreds at Sharjah in 1998. To score two magnificent masterpieces in a short span of time is indicative of phenomenal genius. Like Tendulkar’s memorable efforts, Kohli’s match-winning knocks were chiselled with the dexterity of a master craftsman. The aggressive shots were essayed right out of the coaching manual and almost everything came off the middle of the bat. The flicks through the on-side and the cover drives were a major feature during Kohli’s innings and they are the true indicators of his class.


The year 2012 has heralded a phase of evolution for Kohli. It started off with a few tough outings in Australia and people questioned his ability to handle chin music. However, the determined knocks at Perth and the maiden Test hundred at Adelaide affirmed the belief of the selectors. There may have been a few blips during the tri-series, but one could see that he was gradually transforming into a mainstay in the famed line-up. With each passing game, an aura of invincibility is building around him, much like Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid in yesteryear.


While we continue to rave about Kohli’s brilliance, Rohit’s patient knock mustn’t get pushed into oblivion. He came in at a critical stage when an in-form Tendulkar was out. He had to tackle various mental barriers. He had a point to prove after a difficult tour Down Under.


In 2011, Rohit showcased his match-winning abilities on more than an occasion. The West Indies bore the brunt of his incredible talent as he stole a number of matches from their grasp. In Australia, he got a few opportunities, but didn’t convert them into significant scores. Just when one thought he was fulfilling his precocious potential at the international level, an unexpected trough came his way. His reaction on getting to his half-century against Pakistan just showed how much the success meant to him. As Mahendra Singh Dhoni pointed out at the post-match presentation, Rohit can blossom into a good finisher and India need his services in the middle order.


Rohit was struggling to come to terms initially with the Pakistan bowling. The most encouraging aspect of his stay was that he was willing to fight it out and see off the tough period. He only attacked when the ball was in his zone and ensured that one end was solidly held up as Kohli sizzled at the other. A younger Rohit may have tried to break the shackles with an expansive shot and lost his wicket.


Some of the shots Rohit played were brilliant. The six over square-leg was hit with some power, but the boundary he hit over cover off the bowling of Saeed Ajmal highlighted his rare talent. Ajmal was bowling from around the wicket and pitched it around the leg stump. Rohit just turned the bat with his wrists and went inside out over cover. Such was the quality of the shot that even the bowler nodded in appreciation. His contribution was of immense value and would have given him much-needed confidence for the future.


With the retirement of Dravid, Rohit may get a chance to further his Test claims. Kohli is already a part of the Test line-up and it shouldn’t be long before Rohit joins him.


Tendulkar and VVS Laxman – the other senior pros – may not be around for a long time at the international stage and the two young guns should be ready to take over the mantle.


(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)