Team India beat Australia by six wickets in the ICC ODI 2023 World Cup match at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Sunday, October 8. While KL Rahul was the Player of the Match for his fantastic 97 not out off 115 balls, senior batter Virat Kohli also had a key role to play in the memorable win. He first took a brilliant catch at slip to kick off proceedings for India on a positive note. Kohli then anchored the innings in the company of Rahul, scoring a defiant 85 off 116 balls. While Rahul struck eight fours and two sixes, Kohli hit only six fours, preferring to rotate the strike and keep the scoreboard moving.
Kohli and Rahul’s knocks were special considering the fact that India were three wickets down with only two runs on the board after the end of two overs – Ishan Kishan, captain Rohit Sharma, and Shreyas Iyer all back in the hut without scoring. Both Kohli and Rahul, however, showed great resolve to pull India out of a hole. While Rahul is beginning to flourish into a finisher, for Kohli, chases have become like bread and butter. With the World Cup underway, it’s a good time to analyze whether he is the greatest batter in successful run chases.
In Numbers: Kohli – the chase master
Without taking a look at the records, many would easily conclude that Kohli is the greatest chaser in history in ODI cricket. But what do the actual stats say? Well, they only corroborate the hypothesis. Among batters who have an exceptional record in chases, Kohli is head and shoulders above the rest, going purely by cursory numbers. In 92 ODI innings in successful chases, he has amassed 5517 runs at a splendid average of 88.98 and a strike rate of 97.13, with 22 hundreds and 23 fifties. He has been dismissed without scoring only on three occasions.
Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar is second on the list. In 124 innings in successful chases, he has scored 5490 runs at an average of 55.45 and a strike rate of 90.08, with 14 hundreds and 31 fifties. He was dismissed without scoring on six occasions. Among others, Ricky Ponting scored 4186 runs in 104 ODI innings at an average of 57.34 and a strike rate of 78.21, with eight hundreds and 29 fifties. He was also out without scoring on six occasions.
Indian captain Rohit Sharma, who often doesn’t get credit for his performances, is a surprise fourth on the list. In 89 ODI innings, he has 3983 at an average of 63.22 and a strike rate of 88.88, with 11 hundreds and 26 fifties. He has registered five ducks. South African legend Jacques Kallis completes the top five list. In 100 innings, he scored 3950 runs at an average of 56.42 and a strike rate of 71.79, with three hundreds, 34 fifties, and four ducks.
How has Kohli chased against top teams of his era?
While the first-hand stats pick Kohli as a runaway winner among players who have been most successful in ODI chases, it is important to analyze the numbers in detail, especially the performance of the said players against top sides of their time. Looking at Kohli’s record against Australia in winning chases in ODIs, he has a fantastic record. In 14 innings, he has notched up 822 runs at an average of 68.50 and a strike rate of 98.32, with four hundreds and two fifties.
Only Rohit is above him on the list among Indian batters. The Indian captain has scored 861 runs in 13 innings at an average of 78.27 and a strike rate of 90.72, with three hundreds and four half-centuries. South Africa is another top team of the modern era, and Kohli has fantastic numbers against him as well in chases. In six innings, he has amassed 409 runs at a stupendous average of 136.33 and a strike rate of 92.74, with two tons and one fifty. Kohli has a wonderful record in successful chases against New Zealand as well, averaging 73.28 from 10 innings at a strike rate of 95.17. Clearly, Kohli has proved himself to be a chaser against all big sides.
The missing piece in the greatness puzzle
If stats were the only criteria, Kohli would easily be the greatest chase master of the current generation. But there is still one area that he has to conquer. And this is performing in knockout clashes. While he has ticked the yardstick in T20Is with some fantastic batting efforts in the 2014 and 2016 World Cups, the world is yet to see the best of Kohli, the chaser in ODI knockouts. As of now, it has been a case of massive expectations resulting in equally gigantic disappointments.
It all started in the 2015 World Cup semi-final in Sydney. After a Steve Smith ton lifted Australia to a 325-plus score, India needed a big one from Kohli. He was out for just 1 off 13. In the 2017 Champions Trophy final against Pakistan at The Oval, the Men in Blue were set to chase 339. Team India fans were again hoping for a big one from Kohli. He again got a reprieve early on but fell the very next ball for 5, playing a loose stroke.
Kohli had a chance to make amends in the 2019 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand in Manchester. But all he could produce was another single-figure score, trapped lbw by Trent Boult. The few failures in ICC knockout matches cannot completely overshadow the legend of Kohli, the chaser. But to be considered the greatest chaser ever in history, he needs to come good on the biggest stage of all. That hasn’t happened in his one-day career as of now. He could get the opportunity this year in what could be his last ODI World Cup. If he gets it and makes it count, nobody can snatch away the greatest chaser tag from him.