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The shadows behind Kohli

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Virat_Kohli_India_cricketThe iconic memory of India’s win over Pakistan in the ICC T20 World Cup would probably be the image of Virat Kohli bowing down towards Sachin Tendulkar. Not just because it emphasised how significant Sachin Tendulkar still is to Indian cricket, but also because it highlighted the similarities between him and Tendulkar. Rather, the similarities in scenarios involving them.

The latter aspect, to be honest, is then somewhat detrimental to the whole scheme of India being the favourite to win the T20 World Cup.

 

On paper, India does have a good team, and against Pakistan on Saturday, there were some good performances – from Yuvraj Singh, who held things together and helped put up a crucial 61-run stand for the fourth wicket, and from MS Dhoni, who finished off the match with his customary flourish. But what has been sidelined is the lack of contribution from the three other Indian batsmen who failed to do their bit for the Indian run-chase.

Looking back, it seems not too different from how things had been for India during Tendulkar’s heyday. We used to have a good side, only to have most of them fail in crucial matches, ending up with Tendulkar shouldering the bulk of the responsibility. The 1996 World Cup is the first event – and perhaps the most important – that comes to mind when thinking of Sachin Tendulkar singlehandedly hoisting Indian cricketing fortunes.

For most parts, it was good as we had an in-form batsman who could deal with any bowler. His superiority, however, also became the inadvertent cause of India’s ignominy in the biggest stage of the sport, as India was declared a defaulter in its semi-final against Sri Lanka thanks to the crowd’s unruly, riotous behaviour after the loss of Tendulkar’s wicket. Incidentally, this was at the same venue as this match against Pakistan – the Eden Gardens.

While Kohli is yet to attain an iconic status like Sachin Tendulkar, the way he’s going on about things, it doesn’t seem too far away that Indian cricket fans will be singing his praises much like they did – and have been doing – for Tendulkar. What about the Indian Cricket team though?

 

Will pinning all hopes on Kohli the Saviour be enough to hide the problems of the team? And will Kohli’s adaptability, not just to pitch conditions but also towards each bowler, be enough to cover much longer the fact that at the top of the order, both Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan are barely justifying their place in the team?

During his post-match speech after India’s win, before collecting the player of the match award, Kohli spoke about how he felt frustrated that he wasn’t around to see through the Indian innings for a bit longer against New Zealand in the team’s opening match. That statement was introspective, as intended, but it also exposed the vulnerability of the Indian batting, underscoring the fact that without Kohli, India was quite beatable on its home turf.

India as a nation has a penchant for the establishment of legacies. When it comes to cricket, the pattern was firmly set when Sachin Tendulkar broke into the cricketing scene and went on to make an unparalleled name for himself. At his peak, he was peerless, and though comparisons were made with new-gen cricketers, one of whom was Virender Sehwag, Tendulkar outlasted and outplayed everyone to the extent that there still seems to be a void in the nation’s cricketing fold with no one to take over from where he left off.

And Virat Kohli, despite being the complete opposite of Sachin Tendulkar with his swagger and style, seems to have taken his place in the fans’ hearts as the successor to Tendulkar’s legacy. The crux is that he doesn’t need to be made out to be so. We do need Kohli to succeed, each and every time; but what we don’t need is us, as fans, wanting him to overwrite already present legacies.

The Indian team came into the T20 World Cup after an incredible showing in the format in three different series, including an unbeaten title run at the Asia Cup in Bangladesh. But in each of these wins, the commonality of Virat Kohli dominating is unmistakeable. It’s a trend that the team needs to redress for its own good. Not only because it amps up the pressure on Kohli, but also because cricket isn’t a one-man show any more than Kohli is a one-man team.

 


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