Where the Virat Kohli-Rohit Sharma duo scores over Sachin Tendulkar-Sourav Ganguly – Explains Ian Chappell

That’s the game of cricket; Rohit Sharma scores a blistering hundred against West Indies while Virat Kohli suffers the ignominy of a golden duck.

Two of India’s best One-day batsmen experience varying fates. An argument could be mounted that Kohli and Sharma are India’s best-ever pair of One-day batsmen.

The obvious challengers would be the feted combination of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly who tormented international bowlers for 15 years. They spent the bulk of that time opening together and did so against some of the best fast bowling combinations.

Facing the new ball against Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis from Pakistan; Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh of West Indies; Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee in Australian colours; Alan Donald and Shaun Pollock representing South Africa and Lasith Malinga and Chaminda Vaas of Sri Lanka was a serious test of a batsman’s skill.

That is where the debate would favour the retired combination; the quality of the opposition. The current Pakistan prime minister and former top-class fast bowler Imran Khan once said; “You judge a man by his opponents.”

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On that basis you’d have to lean towards Tendulkar and Ganguly. However, if you extrapolate their current figures to give Kohli the same number of innings as Tendulkar and Sharma the equal of Ganguly, the pair still playing finish well in front.

The one indisputable argument is Kohli and Sharma are the best ever white-ball combination. Their combined ODI and T20 records are excellent with Kohli—averaging over fifty in both formats—at the unbelievable level. To be fair, Tendulkar played very little T20I cricket and Ganguly’s career was finished by the time it blossomed.

Like he did for the bulk of his career, Tendulkar led the way in being the first batsman to score an ODI double century. Since then Sharma has fine tuned the art by scoring three double centuries, with his monumental 264 against Sri Lanka sending the fans at Eden Gardens into a frenzy. The one thing all four players have in common is their watchability. With Tendulkar it was his all-round mastery of the art, but he never ceased to amaze with his back-foot forcing shots on bouncy pitches for a man short in stature.

There were many times when he excelled but I haven’t seen two better innings than his back-to-back centuries in the desert when he single-handedly took apart a very good Australian attack in Sharjah. This was batting excellence complemented by sheer bloody-minded determination.

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When he was going there was no better off-side player than Ganguly; his drives, so effortlessly played, would pierce even the most crowded cover field. The shot was best summed up by the teammate who said; “Through the off-side, first there is God and then there is Ganguly.”

It would seem Indian batsmen have it in for the poor old Sri Lankans; Ganguly pummelled them to the tune of 183 blistering runs during the 1999 World Cup. Indians also appear to have a fascination with 183 as it’s Kohli’s highest ODI score and also that of MS Dhoni. However, it’s not so much the huge scores that stamp Kohli’s class but the regularity of his success. He punishes bowlers all round the wicket by keeping the ball on the ground the bulk of the time. By eliminating a lot of the risk in batting, his scores are consistently high but still amassed at a good rate.

Sharma on the other hand tends to play risk-free cricket early on but once he gets motoring it’s a case of “watch out in the stands.” While he doesn’t exude muscle power like Chris Gayle, Sharma hits nearly as many sixes per innings and has a higher strike rate.

Like all debates about players from different eras, it’s superfluous. Suffice to say Indian fans have been extremely fortunate to witness close up four of the best ‘short form’ batsmen of all time.

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