At a time cricket lovers believed that Don Bradman was the best batsman in the world and had no equal. Even someone of the stature of Viv Richards did not get the chance to be thrown into the same league. Over 40 years after Don retired, a teenager named of Sachin Tendulkar came into the mix and as he developed into the player that his comparisons with Don started.
Sachin has found himself in another comparison, with a person he used to share the dressing room with, Virat Kohli. The Team India skipper has been on the scene for over a decade and many are even saying that he is better than Sachin. He has already broken some of the Master Blaster’s records and is expected to shatter most of the ones he holds at least in the ODI format. Even though these two players have nothing but respect for each other comparisons are flooding and it’s pretty much been turned into a Kohli vs Sachin.
In an interview when Sachin was asked if Kohli was as good as him, he replied,”Do not compare me to Kohli, he is on a whole different plane.”
On being asked on his comparisons to Sachin, Kohli’s reply was even more famous , he said,”Please don’t compare me to the man who is the reason why I started playing this game.”
So is it fair to compare these two champions? We have Sachin’s 100 international hundreds on one side and Kohli’s ODI average of nearly 60 which is the highest among active players. By sheer numbers, Kohli has superiority in ODIs, while Sachin pips in him in Tests and of course the icon did not play enough T20Is to be considered for comparison of stats. But these are just numbers. At the end of the day, a champion is a champion in any era.
Then why should we not compare these two great players? Simple, their success is not on a common plane. Confused? Let’s make it simpler. There was difference in the rules of the game, quality of bowling, batting wickets and also the frequency of matches. Kohli came into international cricket 19 years after Sachin and is still playing 6 years after Sachin’s retirement. For 5 years, the two of them played together and it was only in the 3-4 years that Kohli has developed into the player that he is today. To be honest, Sachin faced the likes of Curtly Ambrose, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar. Sadly, the current crop of players come nowhere close. It is not Kohli’s fault that he is playing at a time when the bowling standards have gone down. The fact that he is in a class of his own is because nobody can match him among his equals, exactly as was the case with Sachin.
There are two sets of fans, Sachin camp and Kohli camp. For those who grew up in the 90s, saw Sachin in his prime. The kids born in the nineties have seen Kohli at his peak. So it’s pretty much a clash of ideals. Who is better? We can’t judge when the parameters are not the same. It’s like comparing chalk and cheese.
Both are great players in their own right. Sachin is a legend and Kohli is a legend in the making. Maybe for carrying the sheer weight of the nation and India’s batting for most part of his career, Sachin might just get a few extra points, but Kohli is playing in a more competitive age where the games are more and the body needs to be extra fit to compete. So, he is no pushover. Easily one of the fittest players today, Kohli remains the best batsman among his peers. Is he the best of all time? That again is a debate for another day.
One cannot deny Kohli is taking forward Sachin’s legacy. We cannot help but marvel at how his batting reminds us of the maestro’s style of playing. But Kohli has come out of Sachin’s shadow and his leaving his own legacy in the game. He is not the next Sachin Tendulkar, he is the first Virat Kohli.
Fans, critics and players shall always have their opinions on who is better, but there will never be a definite answer. Perhaps it is best to let this debate rest, because the aura of both players is such that comparisons do not do them justice. Just be thankful that we got to watch both these guys in action and Team India is grateful to get two world class batsman in back-to-back eras. In the years to come, we might see a player who reminds us of the way Kohli plays and comparisons will start once again. For now, let us thank our stars that their presence with the willow has enriched that game played on a 22-yard strip.