Virat Kohli's legacy so alike yet so different to Sachin Tendulkar's | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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Virat Kohli's legacy so alike yet so different to Sachin Tendulkar's

Nov 06, 2023 02:50 PM IST

Sachin Tendulkar found privacy on the field, while Virat Kohli embraces the spotlight, making both instrumental in elevating Indian cricket.

“Sachin Tendulkar has carried Indian cricket on his shoulders for 21 years. So, it was time that we carried him on our shoulders after this win.” So said Virat Kohli on the night of 2 April 2011 as he paraded the little master around the Wankhede Stadium on his shoulders, minutes after India had become the first host nation to lift the World Cup.

Virat Kohli has reached a stage where he invokes a Sachin Tendulkar-esque reaction from the public.( BCCI Twitter)
Virat Kohli has reached a stage where he invokes a Sachin Tendulkar-esque reaction from the public.( BCCI Twitter)

At the time, Kohli was less than three years young in international cricket. He had showcased sparks of brilliance in the limited-overs format, including a century on World Cup debut against Bangladesh in Mirpur, but he had yet to cut his teeth in Test cricket and few, if any, might have foreseen the career path he would embrace in time to come.

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Not long after that Saturday night in the Maximum City, when India humbled Sri Lanka in the title clash, the legend of Kohli started to take shape. Tendulkar had been earmarked for batting greatness from the time he made his Test debut as a 16-year-old; Kohli took a while getting there, but once he had got a hang of life in the fast lane, it was inevitable that he would become India’s next great batter, the fulcrum around which the team would revolve, much like Tendulkar had been for 24 years.

Tendulkar had a sense of occasion – remember his stunning hundred against Australia in the final of the tri-series in Sharjah in 1998, on his 25th birthday? Kohli is no different. He has reserved some of his finest essays for the big moment, the big stage, the big day. So, why should 5 November 2023 be any different?

Also Read: Haters gonna hate but Virat Kohli's aura of invincibility grows with Kolkata grind at World Cup 2023

Ahead of Sunday’s 2023 World Cup clash against South Africa, all the attention of the Indian cricket populace was centred on the one-time stormy petrel from Delhi who has evolved into the senior statesman. How would he celebrate his 35th birthday? Would it be the day when he statistically drew abreast of Tendulkar for the most centuries, 49, in One-Day International cricket? Would he use the iconic Eden Gardens as the theatre of his latest dream?

In sequence, the answers to those questions were ‘In style’, ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes’ respectively.

The comparison game is odious at the best of times, and there is no point in playing that. True, numerically, Kohli got to his 49th ODI ton in significantly fewer innings than Tendulkar – 277 to the master’s 452. Does that make Kohli a superior batter? Has he gone ahead of Tendulkar in the pecking order?

How do you even arrive at a starting point for that debate/discussion? Tendulkar played most of his cricket in an entirely different era – it was only for the last five years of his illustrious sojourn that he and Kohli breathed the same cricketing airspace. The nature and quality of attacks were different, the rules were different, the pitches were different, the bats were different. Only the demands and the expectations have remained the same, and neither man has failed to meet it, time after time, game after game. Almost.

Also Read: 'Never going to be as good as him', Virat Kohli's glorious tribute to 'hero' Tendulkar after record-equalling 49th ton

Like Tendulkar, Kohli is completely at home on the cricket field. But again, for entirely different reasons.

For Tendulkar, the ground was his safe haven, where no one made demands of his time and energy barring his ten teammates. In the most public of spaces, he sought and found the greatest privacy. He didn’t go looking for the limelight and while he wasn’t uncomfortable when it was trained on him, he couldn’t have cared less if he wasn’t the object of attention. Kohli is an entirely different beast, a showman if ever there is one. He loves the adulation and the adoration, he loves the camera, he loves showboating, he loves whipping up a storm, he loves orchestrating the crowd. Not for him the anonymity of the boundary line; he’d rather be inside the 30-yard circle, making a snappy stop here, offering a snazzy comment there, rifling the ball mercilessly into the wicketkeeper’s gloves from 15 yards, growling and celebrating with unchecked gusto even if No. 10 was dismissed with the match already won and lost.

Kohli is the classic example of style not coming in the way of substance; Tendulkar was all measured, studied, careful, correct. One is the fire, the other was the ice. Together, they have played their part in elevating the art of batsmanship to a rarefied level, entertaining and delighting and lifting millions of fans. Cricket is fortunate that two such champions have come so quickly chronologically; Indian cricket is blessed that they were both born in the land of Gavaskar and Vishwanath, among others.

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