Feb 29, 2012

The Next Great Indian Batsman?

As a cricket lover who grew up watching the exploits of the 'Holy Trinity', the idea of 'life' after them was very discouraging. I had torrid time coping with the reality that Sourav Ganguly will no more play for India. Thankfully, that machine called Sachin still runs on and Dravid also has some cricket left in him. In between, there were plenty of brilliant displays by Laxman and Sehwag in test cricket, but nothing matched that sheer charisma and divine nature of play that Sachin, Dravid and Ganguly displayed. As the curtain slowly draws on the careers of remaining two of the trinity, one question props up in the mind- Who will be the next big batting star from India?

We have a tradition (and reputation) of producing world-class batsmen over the years. From Gavaskar to Tendulkar, Indian batsmen have been merchants of unmatched craft and acumen. So, who will carry the baton forward? In this age of IPL, do we have the talent that can match the exploits of these greats?

While discussing about the next great Indian batsman, few names automatically come to the mind. Virender Sehwag has a terrific test record and highest ODI score ever to his credit, but he is way too wayward and careless to be crowned a 'great' of the game. Moreover, his ODI record is very mediocre and he also lacks consistency and right temperament.

Second name that comes to the mind is that of Southpaw Yuvraj Singh, who is currently recovering from illness. In the past few years, he has emerged as a great One-day cricketer, winning the coveted Man of the Tournament title at the last year's world cup. But his Test performances have been way below par and with age no more very much on his side, he seems to be more of a 'one-day' wonder. Third name on the list is that of Gautam Gambhir, who has emerged as India's opening mainstay in both Tests and ODIs. But Gambhir lacks the flair, elegance and charm of a great batsman. Yes, he has a very consistent record in all the formats of the games, but something stops him from making that transition from a 'very good' batsman to a great batsman.

It is in this regard that a certain Virat Kohli catches my imagination. And, I am not saying this only on the merit of his herculean effort at Hobart. Virat's silken stroke play reminds me of young Sachin, his grit and resolve matches Dravid's steely nerves and his temperament and attitude resembles that of Sourav Ganguly. Yes, 3 in 1 may sound pretty cheesy and romantic, but those who have followed Virat's rise over the last couple of years, would know what I am talking about!

 Virat has everything that it takes to be a great batsman. He has already emerged as one of the India's best finishers in ODIs, averaging more than 55 while batting second. Also, it's not a mere co-incidence that he happens to be the only Indian who has scored a century, in both Tests and ODI tri-series, on the current Australian tour. He always looks hungry to succeed, there is a streak of fire in his eyes. More importantly, he is also a quick learner and represents the new breed of Indian cricketers who never say never. All of this indicates that he could well be India's future captain too.

But, the stamp of greatness on Virat Kohli will acquire its true color when he matches his immense talent with more incredible and consistent performances. He will have to cement his place in the Test team and may be take up the respectable no. 3 slot. Time will judge Kohli on the basis of how many matches he wins for India and how convincingly does he win over himself. Being young is both a privilege and a liability in sports. India has seen too many young stars who flatter to deceive and fail to cope with their new found stardom. Kohli is sending all the right vibes, and no wonder this cricket-crazy nation is seeing a hero in him.

So, if the script unfolds as per the promise of the synopsis, we just may have found the The Next Great Indian Batsman.


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