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England need to look beyond Little Master

Posted in England in India 2012-13

From the outside, it seems pretty obvious which wicket England will prize most during the forthcoming four-Test series against India.

That of Sachin Tendulkar has, of course, been the most coveted scalp for any side tackling India over the last two decades - and it’s easy to see why.

Just 10 Tests from becoming the first man to reach a double-century of five-day appearances, the 39-year-old has a scarcely believable 15,533 format runs to his name.

Those numbers are merely the tip of the iceberg; I could go on, but those who know cricket have seen them many a time.

Tendulkar is a genius, maybe the greatest cricketer of all time.

Yet, while the focus of James Anderson et al will undoubtedly be on the Little Master, it may behove England to be aware that a new star has recently been born in India’s Test side.

In an era in which an average of 50 has long since usurped the previous benchmark of 40 batsmen strive for, Virat Kohli’s 41.35 in Tests should not register on the radar too much - especially in comparison to Tendulkar’s 55.08.

But, in this case, the overall statistics do not tell the whole story.

Kohli did endure a rocky start in Test matches - especially in comparison with a beginning in one-day international cricket that is almost unparalleled.

That led many to wonder whether he would be another Michael Bevan, a player who shone in white-ball cricket without ever transferring his talents to the longer form.

Sachin Tendulkar & Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli, right, looks on course to become India's next superstar having established himself as heir apparent to Sachin Tendulkar, left

Such theories, however, seem destined to fall wide of the mark; Kohli, after all, is someone who in 90 ODIs has already registered 13 centuries - one more than the great Rahul Dravid managed in 344 games.

He is also someone who oozes excellence at the crease, someone who flicks anything straight to the boundary with effortless panache, someone whose driving through and over the off side is a joy to behold.

Thoughts that such eye-catching efforts were destined to come solely in limited-overs cricket have already proved misguided, for Kohli has now come alive as a Test cricketer too.

You only have to look at his recent record.

In his last six five-day appearances, the 24-year-old averages 78 and his last seven innings have yielded scores of 44, 75, 116, 22, 58, 103 and 51 not out.

The growing pains are no more and - no doubt to the delight of Duncan Fletcher and Mahendra Singh Dhoni - a cornerstone of India’s Test batting line-up appears set for years to come.

Tendulkar will understandably still strike fear into England - and any other side in the world for that matter - but, in Kohli, India have found the Little Master’s heir apparent.

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