The constructor and the destroyer
They are both greats of the modern day cricketing era. One is a constructor. He builds great innings brick by brick, not with the sweat and toil of a classic Rahul Dravid style, not with the sheer grit and just that of the Steve Waugh style, not with the vintage old Sunil Gavaskar style. He makes the art of construction very easy as if great innings are built on lego blocks. He does this in style and finesse. He has redefined constructing an innings. He is Virat Kohli.
The other is a destroyer. He tears apart attacks as he wishes. He has eyes behind his back too to aid in placing that scoop to pin-point precision right above the wicketkeeper’s head. He mocks at the footwork manuals of cricket coaching and invents shots off the front foot, back foot, side foot, one toe, knees and even on the air. He destroys attacks in his unique style, not with the brawn and muscle of a Chris Gayle, not with the arrogant confidence of a Viv Richards, not with the fluidity of an Adam Gilchrist. He destroys with a sympathetic smile. Sometimes it appears that he is truly sorry for the bowler and might even walk upto the bowler and say sorry after sending the ball over the cover fence, completely off balance off a wide Yorker. He is superhuman. He is 360 degrees. He is AB devilliers.
It appears a futile thing to compare between these two but such comparisons have always sent critics of the game into fantasy worlds where they have pitched Brian Lara vs Sachin Tendulkar in the bygone era. It is an academic pleasure for the writers to pick similarities and differences between the two whereas right now they both could read these comparisons on the same device side by side and share a laugh in the dressing room of their franchise team.
However let us see if we can truly say one is better than the other in this analysis. They are primarily batsmen in their team. ABD plays at virtually all positions for the South African top six whereas Kohli largely prefers the number three slot. One key aspect of both their games is their range of shots. While Kohli is that diligent student who has read the batting text book cover to cover and perfected each of those orthodox shots, ABD is that maverick school dropout who preferred to write his own manual. Nevertheless, when they get going, the opposition captains are invariably left clueless about field placements. They make field placements meaningless with their ability to hit the gaps and ABD goes an extra yard in his ability to clear the boundaries at will.
They both are match winners in their own ways. ABD’s match winning abilities come to the fore much when his side bats first where he gets the freedom to play without the pressure of targets and can go on sixth gear at will. This wee bit of freedom relaxes him mentally to display his fireworks uninhibited. Kohli, on the other hand, prefers a target to pace his innings. The size of the target is immaterial, because he has chased them all, but a number on the board helps him to plan and accelerate at the right times. He chooses to go one,two,three,four,five while shifting gears unlike ABD who is basically one,two,six in gear shifting. This trait makes him a great chaser.
They are champions in all three formats of the game, which is a parameter very pertinent in judging greatness in modern day cricket. Kohli has found a unique batting formula which applies to all three formats and he basically repeats it day in and day out at the crease. ABD displays variety. He can play at strike rates ranging from 30 to 300 depending on the format.
They have both captained the sides for considerable durations to draw comparisons. Contrary to their batting styles, Kohli is visibly more aggressive in leading the side whereas ABD is the gentleman captain who cajoles his team with friendship and warmth. But the intensity in the desire to win is the same in both their leadership styles.
They are excellent in the field too and can bowl gentle medium pace with discipline when required. ABD can also don the big gloves which is just the horse’s nose in the race between them. But looking at the other parameters of their game, it appears unfair to judge one better than the other. They are champions, both.