Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli have each played a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of Indian cricket, albeit in distinct ways.

On the memorable night of April 2, 2011, Virat Kohli uttered these words: “Sachin Tendulkar has carried Indian cricket on his shoulders for 21 years. So, it was time that we carried him on our shoulders after this win.” This statement came as India lifted the World Cup, becoming the first host nation to do so, and Kohli carried the cricketing legend, Sachin Tendulkar, on his shoulders, signifying a passing of the torch.

Back then, Kohli was a relative newcomer to international cricket, having only been around for less than three years. While he had already shown flashes of brilliance in limited-overs formats, including a century on his World Cup debut, his path in Test cricket was yet to be fully paved. Few could have foreseen the remarkable journey he would undertake.

Following that historic night in Mumbai, Kohli’s legend began to take shape. Tendulkar had been earmarked for greatness from the moment he made his Test debut at the tender age of 16. On the other hand, Kohli’s rise was a bit slower, but he ultimately became the fulcrum of the Indian team, much like Tendulkar was for over two decades.

Tendulkar had a sense of occasion, as evidenced by his breathtaking century against Australia in the 1998 Sharjah tri-series final, coinciding with his 25th birthday. Kohli shares this trait. He has consistently delivered his best performances on the grandest stages, during pivotal moments and on the biggest days. This trend continued on November 5, 2023.

Leading up to India’s 2023 World Cup match against South Africa, all eyes were on Kohli. How would he celebrate his 35th birthday? Could he match Tendulkar’s record for the most centuries in One-Day Internationals (ODIs)? Would he fulfill his dream at the iconic Eden Gardens?

The answers to these questions unfolded as follows: In style, yes, and yes.

Drawing comparisons between Tendulkar and Kohli is often futile. While Kohli reached his 49th ODI century in significantly fewer innings than Tendulkar, it doesn’t necessarily make him a better batsman or place him higher in any pecking order. The two cricketers operated in vastly different eras, facing distinct challenges in terms of opponents, rules, pitches, and equipment. Nevertheless, both players consistently met the demands and expectations of the game.

Tendulkar and Kohli feel at home on the cricket field, but for different reasons. Tendulkar found privacy and solace in the midst of thousands of fans, while Kohli thrives on the spotlight, adulation, and adoration. He embraces showmanship, interacts with the crowd, and relishes being the center of attention. His comfort zone is inside the 30-yard circle, where he eagerly involves himself in fielding, interacting with teammates, and celebrating wickets, even in a one-sided match.

In terms of style, Kohli is a fiery showman, while Tendulkar was the embodiment of measured precision and correctness. Together, they have elevated the art of batting to unprecedented heights, delighting millions of fans and leaving a lasting impact. Cricket is fortunate to have witnessed two such champions in quick succession, and Indian cricket is blessed that they both hail from the land of great cricketers like Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath.

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