- Sanjay Sanapoori | October 25, 2022 | 1:12 am
Jos Buttler, Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, David Warner and Suryakumar Yadav were few of the many batters who were constantly in discussion with respect to potential top players in the tournament. Prior to the tournament, with his form, Virat Kohli was nowhere near the discussions, despite having won the man of the tournament award twice.
His last three years were very tough. The runs were missing and mentally he went through a tough phase. Now though, with one a career defining innings, Virat Kohli’s name is screaming for a place in the discussion. He bought himself back against Pakistan, with a specactular innings against a nation he does so well against. He fired in as vintage a Virat Kohli style as he could, bossing a stiff chase, which is how he got his name as chase master over the years.
Walking in at the fall of the first wicket, Kohli saw India rapidly descend to a score of 32-4. The target looked a long way all of a sudden. Thanks to a fair amount of rain, the MCG track was aiding swing, and both teams made some incredible inroads in each innings. With some really fast bowlers in Pakistan, they used the swing beautifully as Haris Rauf ran through the top and middle-order. Hardik Pandya joined Virat Kohli, and both struggled, but still hung around. Virat Kohli was far from fluent. He had only 12 off his first 21 balls and made his first boundary only in the 25th ball of his innings.
T20 Cricket is already seen as a format that is not his best. Infact, there were questions on Virat Kohli’s place in the eleven earlier as well, with him scoring runs at a slow pace. His struggle vindicated such thoughts though. However, the bowling was good, and even Hardik Pandya struggled. Both stayed though, and it was in Mohammad Nawaz’s over where the innings threatened to changed. Two sixes from Pandya and one from Kohli gave India some momentum.
With a good over behind him, Virat Kohli bought his chasing brain back. He stayed away from risks, and backed his strength, fitness. He and Hardik Pandya pushed the Melbourne boundaries hard and rotated strike beautifully. They took the game as deep as possible. Virat Kohli with all his experience though remained confident. He has remained not out for India in a T20 run chase 18 times, and India won all 18 of those games. He also has an average of 518 in run chases at the T20 World Cup.
The boundaries were missing though, and India found themselves at 48 off 18. Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf had two overs to go. While Virat Kohli has tackled some really good bowlers in the past, the pair coming at him were no less relenting, and are at the top of their games right now. He loves the big moment though, and he seized it perfectly. Back in Mohali in 2016, he had 39 to get in the last three, with MS Dhoni at the other end. Here it was another finisher, who is just as powerful and calm in the form of Hardik Pandya. Pandya though was struggling to get the big hits. The track was not one which helped batters throw their bats around. That is probably where Kohli succeeded though. His timing came into effect rather than power-hitting.
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Virat Kohli took on Shaheen Shah Afridi, a bowler who ran through them in the last World Cup. He succeeded with some classical placement and timing to find three fours. With more good running, India were left with 31 off 12 balls, against Haris Rauf. In the last few months, Rauf has grown into one of the best and fastest in the World. He is really good in the death, and put all the pressure on India in the first four balls.
Virat Kohli though, continued to remain unfazed. He normally does not take chases this deep, but with fewer wickets in the bank and strong bowlers, Virat Kohli held on. At 28 off 8 though, something had to give. In the end. Virat Kohli came up with two legendary strokes, to clear the fence. The first in particular was an incredible shot. Through the innings, Hardik Pandya struggled to clear the straight boundary, but Virat Kohli came up with an elegant pickup shot, and cleared the fence with ease.
With 90000 people in the stadium the pressure was on. Mohammad Nawaz had the ball, and Virat Kohli was at the non-strikers end soaking it all in. Nawaz too started decently, getting Pandya, but a no-ball six to Kohli changed the complexion of the again. Virat Kohli kept his cool professionally while controversy sparked. Facing a final over is something rather unusual for him in a chase. He usually calculates and finishes it earlier as mentioned earlier, putting him in such situations very rarely.
In the end, an elegant shot over mid-off from Ashwin sealed the game. An emotional Virat Kohli broke into celebration, capping off what is easily one of his best innings. With 90000 watching, and the magnitude of the game, he himself went on to admit that it was better than the Mohali knock in 2016.
His last three years were very tough. from Stepping down from captaincy, to failing to find runs, being asked to adapt to a new style of play, mental health issues, and being questioned about his spot in the T20 side, Kohli finally rose. He proved that his style of anchoring a chase, and taking the game deep works just as well in an age where big-hitting is seen as a need.
Virat Kohli trusted a process that worked so well for him through his career, relied on his fitness, and proved why India will need him in Australia. He has some really good numbers in the nation and could well end up with a stand having his name in the country given his numbers there. From 12 off 21 though, with batters struggling around him, and three extremely fast bowlers, Virat Kohli delivered. He proved why he is still the king and is reminding everyone around about who the best is.
The emotion, passion and passion are back. A high intensity chase against Pakistan at Australia is what it took to prove his ability again. There was the struggle in the chase, and the success. In the end though, King Kohli has proven why he is the King, and it will be interesting to see if he can continue to impress as the tournament goes on. Without Bumrah and Jadeja around, his runs are going to be a very important factor. In 2016 he single-handedly took the team to the Semis. Now, he has a much better batting unit with him. With his incredible innings though, Virat Kohli has re-announced himself as the King and a Master in Run-Chases.