Chris Waters: How do you stop Virat Kohli? Er, well you can't ...

THE ARGUMENTS can now be put to bed.

Thursday, 19th January 2017, 12:02 am
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: India's Virat Kohli is the best batsman in the world, with his chief rivals - Kane Williamson, Steve Smith and Joe Root - having lotsof ground to make up.

Virat Kohli is the world’s best batsman.

The Indian master has leapfrogged the likes of Joe Root, Kane Williamson and Steve Smith, who have some catching up to do.

No other conclusion is possible based on Kohli’s recent form.

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India captain Virat Kohli celebrates wreaching a century against England in Pune on Sunday. Picture: AP/Rajanish Kakade

In the last six months, he has scored 1,215 Test runs at an average of 75.93, with three double hundreds.

Since the start of last year, he has made 861 one-day international runs at an average of 95.66, with four hundreds and four fifties in 11 innings.

Also since the start of last year, he has amassed 641 T20 international runs at an average of 106.83, with seven half-centuries in 13 innings.

As former England captain Michael Vaughan tweeted: “Best Test player … KOHLI. Best ODI player … KOHLI. Best T20 player … KOHLI”

India captain Virat Kohli celebrates wreaching a century against England in Pune on Sunday. Picture: AP/Rajanish Kakade

Enough said.

One can certainly ignore the official International Cricket Council player rankings, which put Smith as the No.1 Test batsman with Kohli second, and AB de Villiers as the No.1 one-day batsman with Kohli second also.

The ICC rank Kohli as the No.1 T20 batsman, and no other player is as prominent as him across the three formats, but the rankings are a gimmick and a general guide only as opposed to a definitive barometer of quality.

As Vaughan also tweeted after Kohli’s match-winning hundred in the first one-day international against England in Pune: “VIRAT KOHLI IS FROM ANOTHER PLANET.”

It is possible that the former Yorkshire batsman had inadvertently flicked on his “Caps Lock”.

More likely, however, was that he was merely emphasising his great admiration.

Among the many adulatory comments on social media, one fan wondered: “Why don’t you just admit you are an alien, Kohli? Why don’t you? Why?”

Under the circumstances, it was not an unreasonable enquiry.

For it was a performance that was positively alien-esque as Kohli extended his remarkable record in one-day run-chases, helping India hunt down 351 from the straits of 63-4.

His 122 was his 17th one-day international hundred in a run-chase, equalling Sachin Tendulkar’s record. But whereas Tendulkar required 232 innings to get to that mark, Kohli needed only 96.

He is the most complete batsman in the modern era.

Like Tendulkar, perhaps Kohli’s greatest strength lies in his ability to perform amid the weight of expectation from the Indian public.

It seems to bring out the best in him and inspire him to greater heights.

What we are currently seeing from Kohli is up there with anything that Tendulkar produced and up there with anything we have seen in the modern generation.

Some people may quibble that he has yet to produce in England, but you rather fancy that anomaly will be rectified sooner rather than later.

Going into today’s second one-day international in Cuttack, the question for England was simply this: how do you stop Kohli?

According to Vaughan’s former England team-mate Mark Butcher, you do not.

“I’m not entirely sure that there’s a weakness there, particularly on pitches at home,” said Butcher.

“You’re looking for him to make a mistake, or perhaps even get bored, and at the moment he looks as though he’s going to do anything but get bored of making huge quantities of runs against Englishmen.”

No one is infallible, and it is just possible that Kohli will not make a hundred against England today.

But we have now reached the point where failures by the 28-year-old are headline news, just as they were whenever Don Bradman erred.

The record books show that Bradman was practically twice as good as any batsman who has ever lived; his Test average of 99.94 still has the air of a misprint.

What made Bradman so unusual was the combination of talent, appetite, stamina and concentration, all wrapped up in machine-like efficiency.

Comparisons across the eras are ultimately futile, but when the likes of Michael Vaughan write of Kohli being “from another planet”, they are actually echoing what people said of Bradman between the wars.