India’s preparation for next year’s T20 World Cup teed off with the T20 International series between India and South Africa. Apart from other things, the second T20I (the first was washed out) witnessed Virat Kohli go past Rohit Sharma’s world record tally of 2,434 runs to finish on 2,441. Kohli started the match 53 behind. But while Rohit fell for 12, Kohli finished with a near-perfect set: an unbeaten 72, a world record aggregate, a fifty-plus average, a 1-0 lead, and the Player of the Match award. Unfortunately, that maiden continued to stay elusive.
While Kohli and Rohit have been involved in a race of sorts for some years, they are not the first pair of teammates to share the top two spots. Martin Guptill (currently third on the all-time list of run-getters) had broken his former captain Brendon McCullum’s (fifth) world record in February 2018.
Rohit had made his debut in the 2007 World T20. Kohli, nearly three years later, in May 2010. By then Rohit had already got 325 runs under his belt. It took Kohli 19 matches to overtake Rohit. The two went neck by neck till the 2016 World T20 before Kohli broke away from Rohit. By end-2017 the gap had widened to almost 500 runs.
It was roughly around this time that Kohli began to opt out of T20I series and tournaments, which allowed Rohit to claw back. Kohli reached 2,000-run landmark before Rohit, but the latter edged ahead when Kohli missed the T20Is against West Indies at home. It took Kohli about ten months to get his mojo back.
Virat Kohli vs Rohit Sharma, runs in T20 Internationals timeline
How is Kohli different from other T20I batsmen?
There are several features of Kohli’s T20I career that stand out. First, he averages an incredible 50.85, which – with a 1,000-run cut-off, is next to only Babar Azam’s 54.21.
Kohli also has the most fifty-plus scores in the format (something you would expect the top scorer to have). However, he does not have a single T20I hundred, which is unusual given his conversion rate in other formats.
The other salient feature of Kohli’s career has been his low proportion of sixes. The contrast with Rohit is unmissable. While Kohli has scored a mere 14.3% of his T20I runs in sixes, the percentage goes up to 26.9% for Rohit.
Here is a list of batsmen who, with a 1,500-run cut-off, have scored less than 20% of their runs in sixes. Interestingly, barring Williamson, all others are Asians.
At the other end of the spectrum are the six-hitters. Here are the ones with over 25% runs in sixes. Rohit is fifth (and the only Asian) on the list, one that features some of the biggest hitters in cricket. Unsurprisingly, Chris Gayle holds a humongous lead over others here.
An even more significant statistic is how much Kohli runs. Here is the list of most runs outside boundaries for batsmen between per dismissal. One must remember here that batting at No. 3, Kohli also has to do a tremendous amount of running for his partners as well.
In other words, Kohli approaches his T20I innings pretty much the same way he does in ODIs. Not being a big six-hitter, he relies on fours and runs more than almost anyone else in the world. The risk-free approach has contributed significantly towards his high batting average.