It is like he is saying, “I have all the shots all the other guys play, but I won’t play them unless absolutely necessary because they give the opposition a chance to get me out.” And he knows that in today’s ODI cricket, it is near impossible to get him out if he doesn’t take risks. Sometimes it seems he is almost challenging himself to score runs without falling back on the risky option. For that he trains hard and has adopted a suitable lifestyle.
To see what he is actually capable of, watch Kohli when he has reached his hundred and is batting in the last few overs. Just like he did in the innings that he notched up the 10,000. Having lost both the big hitters, he made sure he would bat till the end. Having sweated a lot, running 62 of his first 102 runs plus the ones he ran for his partners, he opened up in the end. Almost effortlessly he hit four sixes in his last 17 balls. These were not big sixes, but none of them was ever in doubt. Even in hitting sixes, he was using optimum amount of energy. The message was clear: I could have done this earlier too, but I owed my team and myself a long innings.
That, and longevity, separates Kohli from the man who most closely resembles his style. Hashim Amla holds the records for being the fastest to each landmark from 2000 to 7000. Two of these records belonged to Kohli before Amla smashed them. They both bat similarly: setting themselves up to bat through an innings, eliminate early risk and yet maintain a high strike rate. Kohli, though, has a gear in which he can match T20 hitters. And also Kohli has reached 10,000, and is nowhere near the end whereas it is doubtful Amla will last long enough to reach the mark.
Kohli is only 29. The last ODI great from India before Kohli, Dhoni, is going to play a World Cup at the age of 38. It is scary to imagine if Kohli can retain his fitness and hunger till the 2027 World Cup. No ODI record might be safe if he does so. Like a drug, we will seek higher and higher highs. Already his hundreds are risking becoming a case study for whether brilliance can be boring. Then again, there are at least two World Cups, possibly three, left for Kohli to attain those higher highs and complete his ODI career.