When Virat Kohli completed 12,000 ODI runs on Wednesday, the fastest to the feat and in 58 fewer innings than Sachin Tendulkar, the buzz was mostly academic. It’s because Kohli has got the audience accustomed to his greatness, so much so that the 12k-milestone seems just another conquest.
With Kohli, in the 50-over game, it has always been about what records he would end up with rather than the ones he could break. By the time the 32-year-old retires — given his high fitness and motivation levels, he has a long way to go — he would have owned most records in the format. Already, he’s just six centuries shy of breaking Tendulkar’s world-record tally of 49 hundreds. Given his century-striking rate, he could surpass the man he grew up idolising as early as next year. Before long, he could obliterate the Little Master’s run tally of 18,426. At this staggering rate of consistency, he could take approximately 110 innings to eclipse Tendulkar as the highest run-getter of all time. But Kohli would not stop with these.
Whatever numbers he eventually ends up with, statistics would be but an embellishment to his mastery of white-ball cricket. There could be contenders to the best Test batsman throne, but Kohli is the undisputed ODI King — arguably, of all time. Few batsmen have raised the bar or stretched the yardsticks of greatness in the 50-over format more than Kohli. His average of 59.31 has made even the mid-40s average, hitherto the gold-standard, look pedestrian. Fewer still have nuanced this format more than Kohli, be it orchestrating a chase, setting a target, picking the perfect man and moment to launch an onslaught, or tweaking his game on the go to suit the diverse conditions. And like all great sportsmen, he gives the impression that the best is yet to be. When he leaves cricket, there would be no superlative unspent, nor many records unbroken.