On Kohli

About halfway through India’s chase today, I made the rather bold claim that Virat Kohli is the most exciting athlete on earth right now. And by exciting I mean best, most entertaining, and the most gifted. This is not a new sentiment for me, it’s actually something I have been saying for years.

Now, no one who watched today’s match could possibly disagree with me. He was simply brilliant. He came on in the 3rd over, and calmly guided his squad through the middle of the match. Scratching out singles with a hobbling Yuvi, and caressed the game at easy rate of a run a ball. There was a lot of pressure on him to stay in the game, and he shouldered it well.

After Yuvraj fell, Dhoni took over as Kohli’s partner, and absorbed some of the pressure, allowing Kohli to bat with a bit more freedom. Singles became twos, and he teased us slowly with the occasional boundary. But with 39 needed of just three overs, he exploded into life, delivering such a shock and awe display that it left us all breathless – even Dhoni apparently. It was so quick yet so amazing and beautiful that when it was over Twitter was surprisingly a little quiet as we all basked in the afterglow of such a perfect innings.

It was like being made love to.

And everyone in the stands, and those of us watching in India, America, England, wherever, we all knew that we had just witnessed something very special. Very, very special.

And everyone in the stands, and those of us watching in India, America, England, wherever, we all knew that even when the match was seemingly drifting Australia’s way, we were all sure that as long as Kohli was at the crease it was India’s match to win. And win it they did. With such a flurry of boundaries that sitting down became impossible, no matter if you were neutral, Indian or Australian.

So, sure, it’s easy to backup the claim that he is the world’s best athlete to a cricket fan, but what about supporters of other sports?

Can one make that the claim – apples to oranges – that he is better than Messi, Ronaldo, Curry, or Newton? I think so, I think he is. The way he put 1.3 billion people on his shoulders today and carried them across the line proves it. No one faces the level of pressure that he faces, and to respond with such aplomb is the mark of a truly amazing athlete. Sure, you can have all the talent, but until you do it on the biggest stage with the most on the line that you could possibly imagine, you have proven nothing.

Let’s see Messi do what Kohli did today. Let’s see Ronaldo carry an entire nation. Let’s see Stephen Curry make love to a billion people all at the same time.

If you want to see the absolute best that the sporting world has to offer, then you need to watch Kohli in a run chase.

Full stop.


A few other notes:

  • I love Yuvraj, his story is one of my favorites. From World Cup winner to cancer ward to triumphant comeback. But his decision to stay in the match with his bum ankle very nearly cost India the match. He should have gone off for treatment. Those early singles should have been twos and the increasing required run rate put a lot of undue pressure on Kohli – the man that the team needed at the crease – in the middle innings. Thankfully, all is forgiven thanks to the Kohli Show.
  • Yesterday I resubscribed to Willow, after unsubscribing back in 2014. (This was when ESPN had all the best series, so Willow at the time wasn’t worth the $15 a month.) And I must say I was highly, highly impressed with their stream today. Not a single hiccup. Not a single one.
  • I have never liked Australia and I am always happy to see them lose. I think this is because they have ruined two World Cup Finals for me (2007 and 2015). These were matches I was so looking forward to and Australia just swaggered in and won them both running away. Boring. Thankfully we won’t have to worry about them any more in this tournament.

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