Virat and Kane: Set for the big battle

India vs New Zealand 2016


FIRE AND ICE Two of world’s leading batsmen go up against each other, spicing up the India-New Zealand series

For all team talk in cricket, nothing sets the pulse racing than the pitting the best batsmen from either side, especially in the sub-continent, especially if they are the standardbearers of the generation.

The India-New Zealand three Test series starts in Kanpur on Thursday, the big interest will be who wins between skippers Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson wins the battle of the icons. England’s Joe Root and Aussie skipper Steve Smith complete the four-horse race for the tag of best batsman, so crucial for a Test world in tumult.

Each era throws up individual rivalries that transcend the fortunes of teams. It was Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Inzamam-ul Haq, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting who lit up competition in the previous generation while Kumar Sangakkara too staked his claim as the world’s best batsman.


Among the current four, only Kohli is yet to average 50 (45.06), regarded as the yardstick for batting greatness. Smith (58.55) and Root (54.86) are also ahead of Williamson (51.08).

But Kohli’s story is all about how he roared back after the shock 2014 England tour where he made a paltry 134 runs at 13.4 after his weakness outside off-stump against swing, and with confidence shattered, even against spin was exposed.

But he was back in the next Test series, in Australia in 201415. His four centuries showed the technical frailties had been addressed. The twin hundreds to almost clinch a sensational chase in the Adelaide Test was Kohli’s rebirth as the batting leader.

Since then, he has aligned aggressive batting to captaincy. Former skipper Kapil Dev said that comparing Kohli with the other three or even Williamson won’t be fair as Kohli had the home advantage.

But he had no doubt about Kohli’s march towards greatness. “Every generation should have a super star. Virat has taken that responsibility. For 20 years, Sachin, Rahul, Laxman did…it’s about how Virat wants to play and take the game to the next generation. It’s not about winning and losing but the way they play and conduct themselves is very important.”

VVS Laxman added: “As a captain, you have to be a performer, and Virat is. As a leader you have to show the way… He is also improving as captain and individual.”

While Kohli has tried hard to temper his attitude since handed the Test captaincy, Williamson has been the anchor of a team that has not really been a force away from home.

He laid the marker on the 2010 India tour, scoring a century on Test debut in Ahmedabad. Williamson, whose early rugby coach had dreams of seeing his ward in the All Blacks line-up, has been the constant since, the ice to predecessor Brendon McCullum’s fire.

Williamson’s early cricket coach, Dave Johnston, told HT in 2014: “He was pretty much born to the game. He’s an especially good learner, hard-working even at a young age. And he always had the patience.”

Despite his century on debut, he was more interested in discussing the technique of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. “We still do that. He likes Hashim Amla, and likes to set up the game like him,” he added.

Kohli scores with his natural aggression, and is at home; Williamson’s strength will continue to be his calmness. Will fire melt ice?

India: 1 M Vijay, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt.), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 R Ashwin, 8 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 9 Ravindra Jadeja, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Amit Mishra


New Zealand: 1 Tom Latham, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Kane Williamson (capt.), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 BJ Watling (wk), 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Mark Craig, 9 Ish Sodhi, 10 Neil Wagner/ Doug Bracewell, 11 Trent Boult


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