By ICF Staff
March 1 2012
Virat Kohli achieves the impossible in India's miserable tour of Australia.
Having already been beaten into submission in a Test series they were widely expected to dominate, the world champion Indians looked to be crashing out of the ODI tri-series to end one of their most humiliating tours.
Sri Lanka, after beating Australia convincingly, had set India a target of 321 in a must-win game, leaving little doubt that India's series was over. To add a touch of impossibility, they had to chase that target comfortably and get a bonus point in the process.
This is a score that India has not even come close to touching in any of the four Tests, never mind the ODIs. No batsman had yet hit a century on the tour.
Virat Kohli blasted a big, brutal, unbeaten ton straight out of the Bollywood script of some fanciful writer. His 133 off 86 to take India to the target in under 40 overs was the stuff of dreams.
Throughout the tour, Kohli had been abused and taunted by the Aussie audiences and players alike, punished by the referees for reacting to the abuse, and disheartened by the abject lack of fight by his team. For a 23-year old, it doesn't get any worse. Single-handedly, he pulled India back from the brink.
Predictably, there is a popular demand for the unfortunate Dhoni to be sacked and young Kohli to be elevated to captain.
Never mind that Kohli has not yet earned a guaranteed spot on the team. Or that he is still very young, and perhaps immature, as his middle finger to the filthiest abuse from Aussie spectators showed.
The budding batsman's mind is a tumultous place at the moment. After his spot being questioned in the Test part of the tour, and punishment at the hands of ICC referees and umpires, not to mention a complete lack of support from his captain, it would be surprising if he was in any shape to take on more responsibility.
Dhoni's own one-time explosive batsmanship was sacrificed at the alter of Indian captaincy, one of the toughest jobs in India, a story told by his prematurely gray hair at age 30. Ganguly before him went gray at the same age, his batting similarly suffered.
Why would we want the only player who has shown signs of promise with the bat, and the only batsman who may be in the same league in the future as the Big 4, to be sacrificed in the same way?
Such is the burden of performance in sport, and Kohli must learn to deal with it.
For the time being, he should be left alone to practice his art.
The battles against high expectations, against BCCI, against ICC, against the fan who expects him to surpass every record, but will be critical if he enjoys it, and will desert him if he undergoes a lean streak will be tough. The spirit he has shown on this tour hints that he may be equal to it. He has dared to dream.
Then again, that's why he makes the big bucks.