The inevitable has happened in Indian cricket and the media fraternity, with comparisons between two sportspersons from different eras and two great cricketers in their own right. I am nowhere close to being a huge fan of Sachin Tendulkar, but I will still abstain from getting into judgements as to who between him and Virat Kohli, will end up being leaving the game of cricket richer.
To illustrate the way the game has changed over the years and why such comparisons are not warranted, I would like to bring back memories from the first Test match of India’s Tour of Australia in 2014, which I fondly recall as “India’s best Test match loss in years”.
A Crucial Fourth Innings Hundred!
An overnight declaration by the Australians left India with a target of over 350 runs on Day 5 of the first test at the Adelaide Oval. At a venue which is said to be most suited to the Indians of all Australian wickets, it was still a formidable ask. It wasn’t too long before the then 26-year old stand-in captain Virat Kohli, walked out to the middle after the dubious dismissal of opener, Ajinkya Rahane. Apart from being the best young batsman in the side and captain for the Test, Kohli also faced the added pressure of taking over the mantle of the crucial number 4 slot from retired great, Sachin Tendulkar. Kohli’s hundred was his second in the match after a knock of 115 in the first innings. His second innings score of 141 now ranks amongst the best fourth innings performance by an Indian overseas.
Play It Like The Aussies!
The century which came at a strike rate of over 80 was part of a fabulous partnership with opener Murali Vijay. Known for his aggressive game, Kohli seemed to have forgotten that there is a third possible result in the longest format of the game which is a ‘Draw’. “Play it like the Aussies” was the mantra he went by, and rightly so. His approach on the last day of the Test match can be debatable, and many believe he could have pushed for a draw. But few would appreciate that if it hadn’t been for the way Kohli played, India wouldn’t have come so close to winning the game in the first place; which Australia won by just 48 runs in the end. A pretty close margin in the context of the game. More so, the team could have been bundled out cheaply had it not been for the pressure that Kohli’s aggressive batting put the Australian bowlers under. India may have lost the match eventually, but it was the best Test match loss they’ve had in years. It was the finest way to lose a Test match by going down fighting into the last day and the last session.
The Game Has Changed, Big Time!
Just roll back a decade, a few years into the new millennium, and not a single individual in the country would have imagined even Sachin Tendulkar taking India close to a fourth innings target of over 350 on the last day of a Test match. It isn’t about doubting Sachin’s ability, but it wasn’t the norm back then and wasn’t the right thing to do. You’d much rather be fending off deliveries and grinding it out there in the middle to draw a Test match. But the rules of the game have changed, and no target in any format of the game is unachievable. Such has been the transition, which renders any comparisons baseless. Not withholding many other changes over the years, like the pitch and weather conditions, rules of the game, opposition teams, and so on.
No matter what records Kohli ends up with, there is little to draw a parallel between two players from two different eras.
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