The debate over who is the better batsman among Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli arouses great passions on both sides. While majority of those who grew up watching the former blame the more batsman-friendly atmosphere of modern-day cricket for Kohli's superior numbers, the supporters of the current India captain point to his incomparable feats over the last few years.
So, who is better? Frankly, no one can answer that question, not even the two players themselves. The reality is that comparing players across generations is a near-impossibility. Just looking at plain records is utterly stupid as they are influenced by several other factors than the ability of the players.
But there are many important landmarks, achieving whom is considered a matter of great pride for any cricketer. While Sachin seemed able to surpass every threshold of success and attain every record, there are some that remained elusive to him. Some of these have been achieved by Kohli, hence making him, statistically at least, better than the Master Blaster in those specific areas.
Here are 5 parameters on which Kohli has bettered Tendulkar
Scoring 500 runs in a Test series
Sachin scored a mountain of runs in Tests but for some reason couldn't reach the 500-run barrier in any of the multitude of Test series he played. Kohli, on the other hand, has scored more than 500 runs in a series four times already – in Australia (2014-15), against England at home (2016), against Sri Lanka at home (2017) and against England in England (2018). In fact, in the first three mentioned here, he got more than 600 runs. Sachin, on the other hand came close to scoring 500 runs in a series in the 2007-8 tour of Australia but could never get to the mark. So, it seems Kohli is more able to make use of his form than Tendulkar. Or maybe, the bowling nowadays is just too weak to contain a player of his quality.
Hundreds in each innings of a Test
Kohli came tantalisingly close to achieving the distinction of having two hundreds in the same Test against South Africa in Johannesburg in December, 2013. But being dismissed by JP Duminy on 96 in the second innings put paid to his hopes. However, around a year later in Adelaide, he did achieve the feat by scoring twin hundreds against Australia at Adelaide – the second one almost helping India pull off a stunning chase on the last day. Sachin did score a hundred and a fifty a few times in his career but hundreds in each innings is another major record that the Little Master doesn't have in his profile.
More than 500 runs in an ODI series
Getting 500 runs in an ODI tournament is not easy, be it bilateral or triangular. But Kohli achieved this astonishing feat against South Africa in a 6-match ODI series in South Africa. He scored 558 runs with three 100s and one 50. Tendulkar twice managed more than 500 runs in the World Cups – 1996 and 2003, but the closest he came to breaching this barrier in a non-major ICC event was 466 runs in a triangular series of 2003 played in India. Here too, either the less easily satiated appetite of the Delhi boy or the poor quality of bowling have favoured him over Sachin.
More hundreds in chases
When it comes to this achievement of Kohli, a strong argument can be made that the art of chasing itself has become easier in the current-scenario of ODI cricket. Hence if Kohli has more centuries in successful chases than Sachin, it can be understood as an effect of the present era. But what should really blow the mind of any observer is that Kohli has scored a ton while leading India to victory in a chase 21 times till now, even though he has played just 227 ODI's. Sachin, on the other hand, managed just 14 such hundreds despite playing more than double the number of games – 463! Such prolificacy in run chases is awe-inspiring even if we accept that conditions have become better for batsmen. Surely, in this area, Kohli has to be considered better.
Fastest 100 for India in ODIs
While Sachin came to be known by the moniker – Master Blaster – in his career, he was always willing to bat in a different style if required. Also, after playing some blitzing knocks in his early career, he mixed his pure aggression with a measure of caution. But Kohli has shown that he can tear the bowling apart in smithereens at will. In late 2013, against Australia at Jaipur, Kohli scored a hundred in just 52 balls, thereby creating a new record for the fastest hundred by an Indian. He has shown similar destructive streaks on other occasions also. So, it can be said that Kohli can be more brutal than his illustrious predecessor. However, this too, could be a result of modern-day ODI cricket where poor quality of bowling, placid nature of pitches and the effect of T20 cricket have increased the strike rates of batsmen.