‘Kohli ticking all boxes’

‘Kohli ticking all boxes’


SPEAKING HIS MIND: West Indies great Brian Lara bowed out of the world stage 11 years ago, leaving behind a clutch of records and some indelible memories.

The greatness of a batsman can be gauged by the fear he induces in the bowlers. In the 90s, against the West Indies, teams let out big sighs of relief when they saw the back of one batsman: Brian Charles Lara. 

Lara’s sheer fearlessness saw him dominate quality pace attacks of Australia, Pakistan and South Africa. When in flow, the Trinidadian, with his trademark high backlift and superb footwork, was a genius at work. A nice mix of brutal approach and artistry made him an exciting batsman to watch.

His unusual hunger for big runs set him apart. As if the 375 against England in 1994 wasn’t enough, there was his unbeaten 400, making him the first man to reach the mark in Tests, against England in 2004. Think of the 501 for Warwickshire against Durham in 1994 and you know why numbers trembled in front of him.

The former West Indies captain, in a free-wheeling chat with reporters on the sidelines of the Krishnapatnam Port Golden Eagles Golf Championship in Bengaluru on Saturday, spoke on the current batting sensation Virat Kohli, his exploits against tough teams like Australia and on the current day fast bowlers. Excerpts:

India are set to tour Australia. You had a special liking for them. What do you need to do to succeed Down Under? 

First of all, you should be ready to perform against the best in the world. You don’t want to be hiding against them and when the minnows come around you want to score double centuries and take five-wicket hauls. You have to embrace Australia. I wanted to embrace Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. Because I wanted to be in competition with them. That brought out the best in me. 

How challenging will a tour like Australia be for a young cricketer? 

Any young cricketer must dismiss fear. For example, everybody is talking about Prithvi Shaw and how he is going to do on bouncy pitches. He has got an inner mental strength, which is very important. Your technique is going to adapt to any condition if your mental strength is strong. I saw him bat against a couple of West Indies bowlers who were bowling around the 140s and he is good. I believe that if he doesn’t have a great tour then it doesn’t mean he won’t have a great career. He is mentally strong. This is how I went about my career. I had a mental strength that was different from others and I wanted to succeed under any condition.

Virat Kohli has been on a roll in recent years. What are your thoughts on him?

Virat has been ticking all the boxes. If you look at his fitness level, he never seems to be in fatigue at any point of his innings. His passion for the game is amazing. If you see his numbers, they are great because he focuses on every single aspect of the game. He doesn’t seem to shy away from anything. A player can feel at home with a bat in his hand but if someone asks him to run five miles you can’t say no to it. It’s about executing things that are uncomfortable to you. He seems to be doing that. It’s good that cricket has a leader in him. Players of his quality or someone like Joe Root has kept cricket relevant in the world of sport. 

The Tendulkar-Kohli comparison is gaining momentum...

Comparisons, whenever you read about it or listen to it, isn’t a significant thing. I am sure Kohli isn’t paying too much attention to it. And everyone who compares gets it wrong. I was compared with Tendulkar. But every batsman grows in a different era and you have to appreciate what great batsmen bring to the table. In my era, you had myself, Dravid, Kallis, Tendulkar, Ponting and many others. All were different and brought something to the table. How can somebody sit and say a batsman is better than Sir Viv Richards or Garfield Sobers? You just appreciate the period in which they are playing and move on.

For a batsman who excelled against world-class pacers, are you happy with the current bunch of quicks? 

You are talking about bowlers like Michael Holding, Joel Garner or even an Imran Khan who actually achieved whatever they did by themselves or under the guidance of an elder player in the team. Say when Malcolm Marshall came into the side he had guys like  Andy Roberts or Micheal Holding who were regulars in the team. They passed on the knowledge to the upcoming pacers.

I am just wondering if that kind of ‘coach’, telling you how to bowl, is missing today. I don’t think bowlers today bowl freely as those guys did in the past. These days things are very mechanical. If you look at the West Indies, they had naturally talented and fitter individuals in the past but now we are trying to create such bowlers. Whereas India didn’t have pacers who had good attrition levels. But now if you look at guys like Umesh Yadav or Jasprit Bumrah, they are among the fittest in the world. That has made them lethal. 

Many West Indies players are making franchise cricket their priority... 

During my days, I had a little disagreement with the board. I had no such options back then as well. I could get a county contract. But for me, the opinions of my dad and my family mattered a lot. My dad’s love for West Indies cricket was immense. So I had this desire to make the people who put me into the game proud. It’s not an easy decision, what the current players are taking.

West Indies, once, was everyone’s favourite team. But now great players moving to franchise cricket has crippled us. But I don’t entirely blame them. They are making a living and if you look at the national contract for limited overs or Tests and compare that to what a franchise offers, the disparity is huge. Under those circumstances, one needs to have a lot of respect for the maroon cap and I support those guys who choose to play for the West Indies. For those who decide against it, well, I have nothing against them.