Is Virat Kohli already better than Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar

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Is Virat Kohli already better than Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar

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Subhayan Dutta

09/01/2017

Virat Kohli’s magnificent innings against Sri Lanka on Thursday has placed him at the third position on the all-time list of ODI centurions, after Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting. Given the phenomenal rate at which he has attained it, there remains no doubt that he will go all the way.

Sri Lanka went tumbling down to a dominating batting display by India skipper Virat Kohli on Thursday, who brought up his 29th career century in the 4 ODI. India had batted second in the past three games and the low target given by the struggling hosts hardly gave Kohli any opportunity to open his arms. It was an early dismissal of Shikhar Dhawan in the second over on Thursday that saw the Indian skipper taking the field with ample time on his hands and little pressure on his shoulders.

His intention was quite clear in his early hammering of left-arm paceman Vishwa Fernando. He reached his fifty in 38 deliveries and surpassed Sri Lanka legend Sanath Jayasuriya’s record of 28 centuries with blistering innings of 131 in 92 balls, which saw him hitting 17 boundaries and two sixes.

He has now 2076 runs against the Lankans, which is nearly one fourth of his career ODI runs, becoming the fifth player to reach the 2000-run mark. He took 44 innings to attain that, which is one lesser than Dhoni's 45. Kohli now sits at the third position of the all-time list of ODI centurions, behind Sachin Tendulkar (49) and Ricky Ponting (30).

While the 28-year-old has often dismissed his comparisons to Tendulkar as ‘embarrassing’, a nation like India that has a criminal indifference to statistics when it comes to cricket stood up and took notice of the little road remaining before their young skipper becomes a legend. Though there is still some way to go before that happens, one cannot overlook the phenomenal pace with which the Delhi boy has risen to prominence.

Tendulkar’s USP has been his longevity in the international circuit. He has been around for 23 years playing a staggering 463 matches and regardless of how fit Virat Kohli is, it is highly unlikely that he will play that many years. Hence, he has decided to take the next best route, consistency at the highest level.

Kohli has made the form look permanent over the years. In the 193 games he has played, his average ticks at 55.04 with a magnificent strike rate of 91.68. He is way superior to Ponting and Tendulkar in terms of stats and the huge number of games they took to get their first 10 tons compared to Kohli, says it all.

Starting back in 1989, Tendulkar took eight years and 134 games to land his first 10 ODI centuries, while Ponting took seven years and 151 games. Kohli has taken just four years and 88 games to get it. The second 10 tons have understandably come faster. While Ponting reached 20 ODI centuries in the next 110 games, Sachin did it in an incredible 72 games. When everyone thought that was impossible to achieve, in comes Kohli, getting over 1000 runs in centuries in just 58 games.

Sachin took another 73 games for the next 10 centuries and Ponting, 109 games. Kohli is one short of reaching that landmark but has gotten the last nine centuries in 48 games. While the former Australian reached the figure in 375 matches, Kohli has taken 182 matches less to achieve the same feat.

It goes without saying that Ponting has hardly been a match for the India skipper stats wise, and Tendulkar remains the only challenge for him, if any. However, reducing the career of Tendulkar to mere numbers is disrespectful as there remain numerous intangibles that define Kohli’s dominance over him.

The first and foremost reason would be the team built around them. In almost the entire first half of his career, Tendulkar has dragged an underperforming team along, when cricket for most Indians only meant turning off the TV when Sachin got out. Kohli, whereas, has spent almost all his nine years in a team that has dominated the ODI landscape with players all capable of winning games almost single-handedly.

And while the docile playing tracks and increasingly blunt bowling attacks have favoured the cause of Kohli, the emergence of T20 would be the prime reason for his almost machine like mindset and impeccable fitness. The overhyped format has made this game a batsman’s paradise, where no target is impossible to achieve and a batsman takes one second to switch on his ‘beast mode’. Unlike most other batsmen, Kohli doesn’t need to get into ‘the phase’ where a batsman’s focus is at the zenith and he hardly makes a mistake. That mindset seems to be already implanted in him and he can switch it on and off at will.

Tendulkar’s last and 100 century had surprisingly come after almost a year and 34 innings. After he had taken only 65 innings to score his previous ten hundreds, which is among his better conversion rates despite some partially dry years between 2003 to 2008, the last century was expected by many to be a formality and it struggled to come.

Kohli is just 20 more hundreds short of achieving it and it is now a matter of time before he does it. Given his less injury-prone nature and advanced fitness, next eight years should be more than enough to get there, as we don’t expect him to drag himself to the pitch beyond the late 30s.

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