Virat Kohli's performances over the last couple of years have seen him being considered the greatest ODI batsman of all time. He was a top-quality player even before that but the preceding two years have witnessed him reach unimaginable heights of success. The 30-year old now has 41 ODI hundreds and is just nine short of breaking Sachin Tendulkar's all-time record of 49 tons despite having played less than half as many matches as the Master Blaster did.
So, is Kohli completely above competition in the present era? Is there no one in international cricket who can match the Indian captain when it comes to batting prowess? Will Virat be way ahead of everyone else in terms of batting records?
This may all happen and the supremacy of the Delhi batsman may remain uncontested. But, there is one batsman in the world who, as of now, seems capable to challenge the India skipper in terms of batting accomplishments. His name is Shai Hope.
Why Shai is a big Hope
The Barbadian right-hander burst onto the limelight after scoring twin hundreds against England at Headingley to take his team, West Indies, to a momentous victory. Now, in the last few months, Hope has shown incredible prolificacy in ODIs. His purple patch started with a hundred against India at Vishakhapatnam. In the very next match, the 25-year old fell five short of another ton. In the following series, he scored back-to-back unbeaten centuries against Bangladesh.
This year, while the home series against England didn't see him getting three figures, he managed 470 runs in five matches of a tri-series in Ireland with two consecutive hundreds. As of now, the Barbadian has scored 2247 runs in just 54 ODIs with an average of 51.06. He has six hundreds in his kitty so far with 10 half-centuries.
But numbers don't always convey the full truth about a player. What makes the comparison with Kohli credible is the way he bats. Few batsmen in world cricket look as well balanced and poised as he does. His stroke-play is smooth and the technique possessed by him devoid of any glaring weaknesses.
When one watches Kohli bat, he is left awe-struck by the ease with which the Indian right-hander can stroke boundaries and score runs. The same quality is visible in Hope's batting. Not only is he scoring runs, he does so with the same appearance of comfort. When the West Indian is at the crease, he looks in full control and vulnerable only against his own mistakes.
Lastly, this is just the beginning of Hope's career. There is no reason to believe that he wouldn't get even better with time and raise the level of his game. If he does that, sky is the limit and Kohli in his sights. Then again, there is a legion of batsmen who faded away after showing great quality. Hopefully, Hope wouldn't follow the example of the likes of Mohammad Ashraful and Umar Akmal.
If he does that, Virat Kohli will have a serious rival, perhaps the only one who can compete and keep pace with the Indian champion.