Virat Kohli in the World T20: 319 runs at an average of 106.33
In T20 cricket, Virat Kohli’s method is relatively orthodox; classical even. He is not reinventing or redefining batting as AB de Villiers is doing or as Virender Sehwag did before him; he is riding the wave of their redefinition and tempering their madness to bat in a way moulded by and thus perfectly attuned to the environment he finds himself in.
Kohli is not going out of his way to change batting; yet in abstaining from such premeditated revolution, he is indirectly doing just that.
This sounds all kind of metaphysically complicated and weird, but I’ll try and explain...
Kohli’s method is a futuristic twist on a classical technique, and it is a method that probably requires less raw talent than AB de Villiers' or Kevin Pietersen's—for he is not a revolutionary, he is an evolutionary.
He takes what he has, what there is and what is coming, and fuses it together.
His cover drive is still a cover drive, but it is what marketing executives would sell as an iCover Drive. There’s an early shuffle across the crease; a drop of the hands, a flick of the wrists—minute details, swallowed up and reprocessed to function in a more risk-free yet prolific manner to those conceptual renegades, de Villiers, Pietersen, Maxwell etc.
And in that sense I suppose you could argue that Kohli is always going to be chasing perfection. He will forever be reacting to the revolution of the de Villiers of this world and moulding his own game appropriately, rather than as would theoretically be within de Villiers' reach, perfecting batting as he simultaneously redefines it.
But I’d hazard a guess that no one can simultaneously do what de Villiers and Kohli do. The combination of the two methods are, you sense, mutually exclusive.
Kohli's relentless acceleration of classical batting requires maturity that you sense would be forsaken were he to chase the inventiveness of de Villiers.
Likewise, while cries for de Villiers to move up the order and structure an innings more like Kohli are undoubtedly valid, that too is a move that you feel would take something away from the madness of his post-10 over assault.
And while I hate the very idea of de Villiers diluting his genius for the sake of more crease time, it's impossible to deny that Kohli's compromise squeezes more runs from his bat than de Villiers does.
Yet in a super-weird way, there's an almost ineffable feeling that de Villiers' sacrifice to come in after 10 overs, be it of his own or his management's will, is one that Kohli feeds off.
De Villiers is constantly redefining modern batting. Kohli is constantly perfecting it with consideration for that redefinition. The de Villiers revolution fans the flames of the Kohli evolution.
Who is the better T20 batsman?
De Villiers is the mad scientist who blows up the lab creating a vivacious new potion. Kohli is the businessman who takes that potion, tempers it and adapts it, making it into something less explosive but more prolific and sells it for a fortune.
Kohli rides de Villiers’ wave, and I don’t know what takes more skill; being clever enough to ride the wave or mad enough to create it in the first place. Either way, they’re both awesome.