Reed on IPL: No rest in Kohli’s Kingdom

Virat Kohli is leading Royal Challengers Bangalore this season. (AP/Ajit Solanki)
April 18, 2013, 3:47 PM

He has talent and temperament.

Virat Kohli is a young man in a hurry. Impatient for success, the 24-year-old captain of Royal Challengers Bangalore has the cricket world at his feet. Wearing his heart on his sleeve and apparently driven by pure adrenaline, Kohli is desperate to cross the finish line in first place.

This is his moment. As one of the star attractions of the Indian Premier League, Kohli is rising to every occasion. The electric atmosphere, the blaring music and a worldwide audience of millions are all feeding his craving for victory.

Kohli is at the top of his game. He knows he’s ‘on’ and his sublime form shows no signs of slowing down. He has raced past 300 runs in just six outings and is scoring quickly, boasting one of the best strike rates (140.17) in this year’s IPL.

For anyone who thought RCB was a one-man team – think again. Bangalore is no longer reliant on Chris Gayle to save the day. The giant Jamaican, who usually destroys T20 bowlers, has been hit and miss so far this season. Not so Kohli who has taken the team on his shoulders.

In most walks of life arrogance is an objectionable characteristic. It is no coincidence, however, many top professional athletes share the trait. They thrive on the mental battle, knowing the power to intimidate opponents, merely by showing up, is a formidable tool.

Tiger Woods used it better than anyone. Golf is not a contact sport yet Woods’ ability to subdue his playing partners and nearest challengers is the stuff of legend. Many fine players wilted under the pressure allowing Woods to dominate the sport.

Kohli gets it. He strides to the middle with purpose and a presence. Like Tiger, he is developing an aura designed to worry the bowler and keep fielders on edge. Having gained the psychological advantage, he is in a position to dictate the play. It is no surprise Kohli is scoring heavily and his team is motoring along during IPL6.

Talent is, to an extent, a natural gift. It is followed by countless hours of practice to develop and hone the skill. Kohli is approaching the status of world-class batsman in all forms of cricket. Praise from his peers and the media has naturally followed his ascension.

Maturity, however, must be learned. It is a lifelong education, which ultimately calms the spirit and reveals a true perspective. As an individual, Kohli cannot hope to have all the answers. His aggression, which varies from confrontation with opponents to self-denigration, must be channeled correctly if he is to be a truly effective leader.

His recent on-field spat with Gautam Gambhir was typical. In the heat of the moment the red mist descended and Kohli could not leave well alone. Insults were exchanged following Kohli’s dismissal as both ignored the Code of Conduct and more importantly the spirit of the game.

His passion is admirable but Kohli has a responsibility to himself, his team and cricket in general. Watching a professional player, and captain to boot, being restrained and led away is something no true cricket lover wants to see repeated.

It is his extraordinary ability that draws us in. Saturday’s tilt with the Rajasthan Royals promises to be an intriguing affair. Both franchises are on course for the playoffs and both have the destructive batters capable of producing high scores and high drama.

Kohli has a strong supporting cast. Gayle is due another dazzling knock and AB de Villiers showed what a cool customer he is under pressure in the Super Over victory against Delhi. For the visitors, Shane Watson, Brad Hodge and Ajinkya Rahane can all make the scoreboard tick over very quickly.

It will also provide Virat Kohli with another opportunity to mature as a person and a captain. His opposite number will be the legendary Rahul Dravid. It is called respect.

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