A run chase in an ODI presents various challenges to a batsman. There is the pressure of a target to be chased and the batsman has to mould his game to suit the situation. And, if you are the lynch pin of the side, then there is the additional pressure of being there till the end and seeing the game through as well.
And, over the course of the last decade, there has been one man who has thrived when confronted with a target. His competitive juices get flowing when there is a target to be chased, he takes the fight to the opposition, and dismantles them with the majesty of a monarch. It is none other than Indian captain Virat Kohli.
Phenomenal chasing targets
Virat Kohli has been a phenomenon as far as chasing a target is concerned, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that he is perhaps the greatest chaser in ODI history.
South African batting legend Ab De Villiers opined that Kohli is the greatest as far as chasing is concerned in ODI cricket. In fact, this is what De Villiers had to say.
“Virat is the best (in run-chases) I’ve seen in my life. Sachin was amazing in all situations, but in terms of chasing under pressure, Virat tops him.”De Villiers
When a statement comes from a man of the stature of De Villiers, we better sit up and take notice. And, this would indeed be the ultimate compliment for Kohli, as Tendulkar was the man whom Kohli grew up watching.
So, what makes Kohli the master of the chase?
Let us delve in deep and crunch some numbers to find out.
In this table, let us look at the top 5 batsmen with the most ODI hundreds in a successful run chase.
From the above table, we can see that Kohli is way ahead of the pack. While the legendary Sachin Tendulkar took as many as 232 innings to score 17 hundreds, Virat Kohli has scored 9 hundreds more than him although he has played a colossal 98 innings less than him.
Also, Kohli averages an unreal 68.34 in run chases, more than 25 points higher than the ‘Little Master’.
Virat Kohli’s numbers
Now, let us analyse Kohli’s numbers a little bit more in depth
|Batting first and won||61||3201||58.20||13|
|Batting first and lost||39||1356||34.76||3|
|Batting second and won||89||5388||96.21||22|
|Batting second and lost||46||1630||36.22||4|
It is clear from the above table that Kohli’s performances are linked with the result of his side. The Indian skipper averages a gargauntan 96.21 in matches where the Indian side has chased and won. On the other hand, he averages just 36.22 in matches chasing and where his side has lost.
Kohli has scored as many as 22 hundreds in winning chases alone, a world record. There has been no prolific run scorer in a chase than Kohli, and he is ODI cricket’s greatest batsman when it comes to steering his side to victory when confronted with a target.
Miraculous run chase against Sri Lanka
When you have a career as successful as Kohli’s, it will be a challenging task to pick out the best of the lot. But then, when we look at the several gems from the willow of the master, one knock that stands as the crown jewel is the 133* that Kohli scored at Hobart against Sri Lanka. It was a miraculous run chase that saw the birth of a new Superstar in Indian cricket.
The Sri Lankans scored a huge total of 320 runs on the board, and India needed to chase down the target inside 40 overs to stay alive in the tournament. After Sehwag and Tendulkar perished after giving a good start, Virat Kohli walked in with the scorecard reading 86/2. What we witnessed that day from Kohli’s willow was nothing short of a master class.
Kohli took the fight to the Sri Lankan bowling attack, took them to the cleaners and scored a belligerent and murderous 133* off just 86 balls. His knock was studded with 16 fours and two sixes. The batting Superstar reserved special treatment for Lasith Malinga, smashing him to a pulp.
India romped home in just 36.4 overs, with 7 wickets to spare. But more than anything else, the world saw the birth of a new superstar of Indian cricket. And coincidentally, Kohli rose at a time when the great Tendulkar’s powers as a batsman were on the wane.
And from there on, there has been no looking back for Virat Kohli.
Plenty of challenges lie ahead
Today, there is no better chaser in ODI cricket than Kohli. No one has scored more hundreds than the Indian skipper in a run chase, and Kohli is just 31 years old. Kohli’s ability to make impossible feats look ridiculously easy, his ability to chase down gargantuan targets with nonchalance marks him out as a phenomenon that ODI cricket has never seen before.
There are plenty of challenges that lie ahead of Virat Kohli, and the chase master will give us many more moments of pure Genius that will make us gape at him in awe.