World Cup

In the cauldron, Kohli called the shots

There are certain cricketers who thrive when the pressure is on. It stokes their combative instincts. They become so switched ‘on’ mentally that they move into what some call ‘the Zone.’

Virat Kohli is among those precious players.

A full house at the Eden Gardens, a huge game between two traditional rivals, several former legends following the action from the stands, a spiteful pitch, a charged-up Pakistan attack after early strikes and India on the brink of a possible early exit from the ICC World Twenty20 — the situation could not have been more demanding for the host and Kohli at the Eden Gardens on a Saturday night of rain and blustery winds.

The weight of expectations and the state of the track made severe mental and technical demands on Kohli. In the cauldron, he called the shots.

It is not often that a batsman makes a match-winning unbeaten 55 off just 37 deliveries and does so with conventional strokeplay.

Balanced and in control with proper use of the crease while travelling forward or back, he often showed the full face of the bat, straight drove, cover-drove and flicked with a still head.

There was no hint of desperation, certainly no slogging. Not even those cheeky shots of the Twenty20 variety.

A back-foot punch off Sami on the rampage was a signal of intent from Kohli. He never looked back.

Pakistan is finding it hard to dislodge Kohli, much like India did against Javed Miandad in the 80s and the early 90s.

Like Miandad, Kohli is an incredibly determined batsman who puts a price on his wicket. And like Miandad, he likes to stay till the end.

In the ICC World Twenty20 duel between India and Pakistan at Dhaka, 2014, Kohli was undefeated with 36 even as he guided his team home by seven wickets.

More recently, his brilliant 49 — he was at the crease till the doorstep of victory — on a lively track at Dhaka in the Asia Cup shut the door on Pakistan.

Mohammad Amir had made serious inroads with his incisive left-arm pace but Kohli proved the Great Indian Barrier.

He was certainly that against Pakistan in the league game of the ICC ODI World Cup in Adelaide, 2015. Top-scoring with a stroke-filled 107, Kohli enabled India set a game-sealing total of 300 for seven.

It’s this blend of solidity and enterprise that makes Kohli such a formidable customer, particularly in the shorter formats.

And the Delhi batsman is extremely dangerous on the chase since he can pace his innings and possesses this instinctive ability to find the gaps.

Kohli’s numbers in Twenty20 Internationals — 1446 runs in 40 matches at 53.55 (strike rate 132.41) are nothing short of sensational.

Just 27, Kohli’s record in ODI cricket — 7212 runs in 171 games at 51.51 — is outstanding as well.

It’s in Test cricket, where Kohli has 2994 runs in 41 matches at 44.02, that other young and ambitious batsmen such as Kane Williamson and Joe Root score over the Indian because they are more secure outside the off-stump against pacemen with a cordon in place.

Against genuine outswing, Kohli has a tendency to play away from the body, go a little hard at the ball.

Kohli has time on his side and can surely work on this shortcoming.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 3:26:12 PM |

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