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I should really dislike Virat Kohli, but I can’t

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    It almost feels like a birthright. If they’re the best player on the opposition side, then there really is no reason for you to like them. Works for football, works for cricket, works for marbles.

    If they’re beating the team you follow or play for – that is, the good guys – then they can only be labelled as the villain. And no-one likes bad guys, right?

    So booo, opposition bad guy, BOOO!

    This generally irrational position is made easier when said opposition bad guy is arrogant, or mouthy back to the good guys. Or even worse, just really good.

    The more they dominate, the louder you boo. Don’t blame me, it’s the rules.

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    Occasionally, though, the opposition bad guy is actually a really good guy. And this makes the whole ‘thou shalt dislike’ commandment very awkward. Difficult, even.

    In cricket circles in recent years, there’s been a few of these opposition bad guys who are good guys. AB de Villiers is one. Ian Bell is one. Kumar Sangakkara is definitely one. Brendon McCullum was a bad guy until he became a good guy. Stuart Broad is becoming a good guy.

    (For the record, Jimmy Anderson is still a bad guy. So’s Dale Steyn. And Ishant Sharma. And that guy 15 years ago who always got me out.)

    Virat Kohli ticks all the opposition bad guy boxes. Arrogant. Mouthy. Competitive. Really, really good…

    And yet, he’s a joy to watch.

    If India were going to be any chance of chasing down Australia’s mammoth 348 in Canberra on Wednesday, Kohli had to go big. Others would have to contribute, of course, but if India were to get anywhere near seven runs an over to win, it had to be off Kohli’s blade.

    And it damn near was.

    Such was the ease with which Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan were reigning in the Australian total, that even before the 20th over we were discussing in the press box just how many overs – not balls – India would have up their sleeve when the target was reached.

    Dhawan was 24* when Kohli came to the crease, and he did bat very well. Extremely well, in fact. There was no surprise that Dhawan got his hundred, only that he managed to beat Kohli to the milestone.

    Kohli was only ten runs behind when Darwan raised his fifty, and in the mid-70s, there was only one run between them. They entered the 90s together, and had Kohli had the strike at the start of the 31st over instead of Dhawan, it’s entirely probable that Kohli would’ve got to three figures first.

    Instead, Kohli took another 18 balls to bring up his hundred, though at that stage – 1-261 in the 36th over – it hardly made a dent in India’s charge to 349 to win.

    Kohli’s record, 25 ODI hundreds and 8000 runs in 170 matches across eight years, speaks for itself. Any reason why he couldn’t double all those figures before his career is done? None, the way he’s hitting them currently.

    And to put 25 ODIs in context, Kohli’s 25th ton came in his 162nd ODI innings. Only Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Sanath Jayasuriya, and Sangakkara have made 25 or more ODI hundreds, and the previous quickest was Tendulkar, who took 234 innings.

    Fifteen of his 25 hundreds came when chasing a total. Seven of them he finished not out, and India won all seven. In fact, of the 15 centuries in a run chase, India won 13 times. Wednesday night was just the second time India lost when Kohli made a ton.

    When he gets in this vein of form, he plays like few other batsmen on the planet. Kane Williamson might similarly have every shot, and Joe Root might also make it look effortless. AB de Villiers can certainly be as destructive. But Kohli on his day tops them all.

    It’s the confidence, the swagger, the way he carries himself. He projects a body language that we really haven’t seen in a touring Indian batsman before. Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman might have had elements, but again, not the way Kohli does.

    It’s just that presence about him, a real aura around him that probably does make him look like he’ll never get out.

    And I love it.

    I love that his eye is so strong, and hands so quick that even when a bowler beats him for a millisecond, he’s good enough to alter his shot. I love that he doesn’t just hit sixes, he obliterates sixes. They don’t just carry the rope, they go rows and rows back.

    I love that he told James Faulkner he was wasting his time the other day, and that he added, “I’ve smashed you enough in my life. No point. Just go and bowl.”

    Kohli’s competitive, he’s abrasive, and he doesn’t take a backward step. He won’t die wondering, and India will become an imminently more dangerous limited-overs side when he takes the captaincy over from MS Dhoni properly.

    He’s the opposition’s best player, and so I should dislike him, if I follow the rules. But I can’t. He’s a wonderful cricketer, and when he’s on, he’s absolutely brilliant to watch.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (101)

    • January 22nd 2016 @ 4:44am
      Darwin Stubbie said | January 22nd 2016 @ 4:44am | ! Report

      I believe the ‘word’ you are seeking is – unaustralian .

    • Columnist

      January 22nd 2016 @ 5:18am
      Ronan O'Connell said | January 22nd 2016 @ 5:18am | ! Report

      I’m a huge Kohli fan – love the way he bats, love the way he fields, love the way he captains, love his passion. The sooner he takes over from Dhoni the better – I can’t see him accepting woeful away performances the way Dhoni seems to.

      • January 22nd 2016 @ 8:39am
        Jameswm said | January 22nd 2016 @ 8:39am | ! Report

        Totally agree Dhoni has to go as skipper. Lacks confidence in his youngsters. Too negative. Uninspiring right now, though I assume his aura is big in India.

        Kohli wold be a much better fit for them right now.

      • Roar Pro

        January 22nd 2016 @ 10:25am
        Gurlivleen Grewal said | January 22nd 2016 @ 10:25am | ! Report

        The problem here in India is that record buys you a lot of leeway. Happened with Sachin at the end, has happened with Yuvraj, is going to happen with Dhoni. But it didn’t happen with Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag. It is all about having the right strings and connections – Dhoni has them in spades.

        The shame of losing badly, again and again, doesn’t matter to the management, the selectors who owe their careers to the higher-ups, who are in-turn chums with these players.

        It took freaking four years for Dhoni’s career to be finished in tests – after the disaster of 8-0 vs. England, Australia. That too he decided to quit. I thought the record of 14 losses to 3 wins post world-cup and changes in BCCI would be it, but all the signs are saying we’ll have to put up with him further. India performing badly in T20 WC could be a catalyst, though. Hoping the same.

        • Roar Pro

          January 22nd 2016 @ 10:43am
          Gurlivleen Grewal said | January 22nd 2016 @ 10:43am | ! Report

          Another contributing factor is the gag on commentators, players – just about everybody associated with cricket. Nobody can air their satisfaction or critique anyone. Those who do say goodbye to BCCI perks. One can’t even critique his strategy on air – at best say – oh, maybe he let the game drift a bit, Oh this is Dhonism, Oh is a cool captain – he has a different way of doing things.

      • January 22nd 2016 @ 10:52am
        Bobbo7 said | January 22nd 2016 @ 10:52am | ! Report

        Agree Ronan – India needs some mongrel from its captain and I reckon Kohli will bring it.

        They also seem to be too happy with personal milestones in losing sides for mine – they need the Australia team comes first mentality.

        • January 29th 2016 @ 4:18am
          Viren said | January 29th 2016 @ 4:18am | ! Report

          Bobbo, that used to be the case earlier. Now you see Kohli asking for low scoring pitches in India to force results, at the cost of his batting average.

    • January 22nd 2016 @ 6:40am
      Adsa said | January 22nd 2016 @ 6:40am | ! Report

      Great player, but comes across as arrogant.

      • January 22nd 2016 @ 9:28am
        madmonk said | January 22nd 2016 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        As opposed to Warne, McGrath, Viv Richards

        • Roar Guru

          January 22nd 2016 @ 11:04am
          Joey Johns said | January 22nd 2016 @ 11:04am | ! Report

          They all walked the walk in the Test arena, though.

          • January 22nd 2016 @ 11:20am
            break dancer said | January 22nd 2016 @ 11:20am | ! Report

            Still arrogant players though, that was the point.

    • January 22nd 2016 @ 7:28am
      Justin from Canberra said | January 22nd 2016 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      I’ve never seen such pure intensity and fire in the eyes of a cricketer before, so riveting to behold. He certainly made Faulkner look 3rd rate, completely out-classed and his dismissiveness and contempt of him reaks of brilliant arrogance. Brilliant to watch and yes, he deserves more support from his team.

      • January 22nd 2016 @ 8:38am
        Jameswm said | January 22nd 2016 @ 8:38am | ! Report

        Yet his team’s just lost 4 in a row.

        On the first of his tons this series, he coasted to it, with the field back, when his team needed him to press harder to lift the run rate. Where was the intensity to win there?

        • Roar Guru

          January 22nd 2016 @ 12:33pm
          Cadfael said | January 22nd 2016 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

          Four in a row, one doesn’t sledge the opposition. Those mentioned in Madmonk’s comment were sledging as part of a winning side. As well, we keep being told by the BCCI and their players that they won’t accept DRS (though they do accept part of it) and will accept the umpire’s decision. In two out of four ODIs this summer, Dhoni has been given out and hasstood at the crease staring. If this was Smith or Warner or Bailey, the press would be up in arms about their attitude.

          • January 22nd 2016 @ 1:33pm
            Jameswm said | January 22nd 2016 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

            Complete double standards.

            And our Board acts on these types of things, whereas the BCCI seems to blindly back their players, whatever they do.

    • January 22nd 2016 @ 7:42am
      Dan said | January 22nd 2016 @ 7:42am | ! Report

      He’s incredibly good, love watching him bat. I think he’s the number one batsmen in the world by a fair margin.

      • January 22nd 2016 @ 8:36am
        Jameswm said | January 22nd 2016 @ 8:36am | ! Report


        He’s a very good ODI bat, but he only averages 44 in tests.
        Smith averages 57.9
        Root averages 55.1
        Williamson averages 49.9

        Also, Kohli averages 40 when his team wins, 34 when they lose, and 67 when they draw. He gets his runs in high scoring draws, when there is less pressure, and he doesn’t score big runs to set up games for his bowlers to finish off. Root averages 80 when his team wins and Smith 77, so both score important match-winning runs.

        The other three are currently well ahead of Kohli as a test bat. Kohli would be lucky to be in the top 10-15 in the world. Warner is also better, ABDV, Cook, Amla, Younis Khan.

        Just checked and Kohli’s ranked 14, 4 behind Voges I might add. Smith’s no.1, but he’s only 10 points ahead of 3rd placed Williamson, with Root squeezed in between.

        • January 22nd 2016 @ 10:00am
          Dan said | January 22nd 2016 @ 10:00am | ! Report

          His test stats at this point whilst still good don’t compare to smith and co, I will give you that. Although you talk about him not getting runs under pressure, to be fair smith pilled them on against a pathetic Indian attack last summer and on a road at lords then failed four times when the ashes was on the line. Warner is great at home on absolute highways but still unproven away and if you think Adam Voges is anywhere near kholi you’re mad. Honestly that West Indies side is appalling and he has half his test runs against them.
          Devilliers is out of form.
          Williamson is a class player.
          Kholi has only played 41 tests and has 11 tons at 44, he’s now captain and at the peak of his powers. I expect in the next few years his numbers will rapidly improve in the test arena.
          The balance of pure technique and aggressive stroke play is why I rate him number one. He’s a freak.

          • January 22nd 2016 @ 10:10am
            Nudge said | January 22nd 2016 @ 10:10am | ! Report

            Spot on Jameswm, and you’re way off the mark Dan. I like how you mention Smith failing in 2 tests in England but haven’t mentioned how Kohli went in England. Go check those stats.

            • January 22nd 2016 @ 10:30am
              Jameswm said | January 22nd 2016 @ 10:30am | ! Report

              How about I help you out there Dan?

              Smith averages 43.3 in England. Below his whoppiong overall 57 average.

              Guess what Kohli averages? 40? 30? 20?

              No. it’s 13.4. Yes, in 5 tests in England, Kohli has scored 134 runs at the average of 13.4.

              Smith is 26 and has played 39 tests. Kohli is 27 and has played 41. So virtually identical there.

              Kohli is at the peak of his powers you say? In 2015, including a big NY test v Australia, Kohli scored 640 runs in 9 tests @ 42.

              In 2015 Smith scored1,474 runs in 13 tests @ 73.7. This includes the Ashes in England, where he failed in 4 innings in a row.

              On your terms, Smith’s peak is a lot higher than Kohli’s.

            • January 22nd 2016 @ 10:30am
              Dan said | January 22nd 2016 @ 10:30am | ! Report

              He went terribly in England I know. That was also 18months ago, hardly recent form.
              Just my opinion, but I have him infront of the others.

          • Roar Rookie

            January 25th 2016 @ 4:06am
            Tana Mir said | January 25th 2016 @ 4:06am | ! Report

            Dan, kohli can’t play moving ball. He is Anserson’s bunny. He is great in short firm because pitches are flat. He will never be great of Test cricket.

        • January 22nd 2016 @ 10:23am
          Steve said | January 22nd 2016 @ 10:23am | ! Report

          To be fair, some of those Indian wickets Kohli plays on aren’t the most batsmen friendly. And in the case of Smith, he’s great at piling on runs in Batsmen friendly conditions (like Australia or even Lords last year) but he too has struggled on not so friendly wickets.

          • January 22nd 2016 @ 10:35am
            Dan said | January 22nd 2016 @ 10:35am | ! Report

            Cheers Steve, I’m not for one second saying I don’t rate smith, Warner Williamson root or any of them. They are all exceptional players. I just think kholis technique and his balance between defence and attack is perfect and he is at the top for me.

            • January 22nd 2016 @ 11:08am
              Bobbo7 said | January 22nd 2016 @ 11:08am | ! Report

              Dan I think Williamson’s technique outclasses them all.

              Kohli and Smith are both very good but for mine Smith makes a lot of runs of concrete decks against average attacks (WI, India)

              But undoubtedly they are all excellent players

              • January 22nd 2016 @ 5:05pm
                Andy said | January 22nd 2016 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

                Yeah i think Williamson is the best of the 4, very impressed with him over here.

              • Columnist

                January 23rd 2016 @ 3:21am
                Ronan O'Connell said | January 23rd 2016 @ 3:21am | ! Report

                “Smith makes a lot of runs of concrete decks against average attacks (WI, India)”.

                Yet you ignore the fact Williamson has padded out his career stats by churning out runs against the very weak Test nations.

                Almost half of Williamson’s career runs have come against Bangladesh, West Indies and Sri Lanka – he’s averaged 71 against those weak teams, compared to 40 against the decent Test nations.

            • Roar Guru

              January 22nd 2016 @ 1:11pm
              Cadfael said | January 22nd 2016 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

              Technique is great when taken with work, skill and patience. We have had some players with excellent techniques, Paul Sheehan was one> Bradman’s technique was supposed to be poor and he would be found out with good bowlers. Walters was another where experts complained about his technique (Walters was found out on English wickets). My point is technique is wonderful as is potential but they won’t win on their own.

          • January 22nd 2016 @ 10:36am
            Jameswm said | January 22nd 2016 @ 10:36am | ! Report

            Everyone struggles on “not so friendly wickets”.

            That “road” at Lord’s where Smith got a double ton, England managed 312 and 103 in their two innings. It wasn’t a road when they batted on it, was it? Bell managed 1 and 11, and Root managed 1 and 17 in that game. If it was so easy, why did England’s two best batsmen fail 4 times? Clarke failed in the first innings, and Warner and Voges (both ranked in the world’s top 10) managed 20 and 30.

            Johnson took 6 for 80 on that road, and Hazlewood 5 for 88.

            You can’t dismiss Smith’s knock because the pitch was supposedly too easy. It was really only easy for Smith and Rogers.

            • January 22nd 2016 @ 10:45am
              Dan said | January 22nd 2016 @ 10:45am | ! Report

              To be honest mate smiths numbers are great and better then kholis, I basically have no case to put forward other then it’s my opinion from the years of playing and watching cricket that to me kholi is the best in the world at this point.
              Feel free to disagree.

              • January 22nd 2016 @ 11:23am
                break dancer said | January 22nd 2016 @ 11:23am | ! Report

                Thats alright Dan, your allowed your opinion. He would be one of the first picked in my team. I wouldn’t need to look at all those wonderful stats to make my decision either……

              • January 22nd 2016 @ 11:44am
                Nudge said | January 22nd 2016 @ 11:44am | ! Report

                Ok my hands up, ill disagree, but I’m only going by the stats which is a bit silly considering Smith and Kohli’s stats are that far apart it’s not funny.

        • January 24th 2016 @ 6:54pm
          Simoc said | January 24th 2016 @ 6:54pm | ! Report

          Proving James that stats are totally meaningless if you know anything about cricket. You rely on them because you are clueless. At the end of their careers go for your stats. Until then use your eyes.

          Kohli is a superb batsman and India have a few of them. One of these days they will start winning games away from home.

      • January 22nd 2016 @ 3:46pm
        Andrew said | January 22nd 2016 @ 3:46pm | ! Report

        Sorry Dan, Williamson is number one for me. They way he played this summer was amazing. Australia couldn’t do much to get him out and his technique looked flawless.

    • January 22nd 2016 @ 7:58am
      Internal Fixation said | January 22nd 2016 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      Hi Brett. I like watching him bat as well but I think all modern batsmen need their achievements put into context. It would be very interesting to look at the average ODI scores of the past 10 years compared to previously. I suspect that team totals have gone up dramatically. Kohli may be quicker to 25 centuries than Tendulkar but under similar batting conditions I think Tendulkar’s stats would be similar.

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