Match winning knocks immediately change the body language. A bright 138 runs, collected through plenty of planning and immaculate execution, has done that to Virat Kohli. A man who gets a kick out of the big fight can’t stay without being involved in one. The explaining may have been little long-winded, but Kohli was at his expressive best, and did not seek an escape route when questions turned to the difficulties he encountered in his shot-making.
“A game like that of tomorrow is something I personally like to be a part of. You want to be performing in big games and winning for the team. That feeling after you make a significant contribution to the team winning a big game is something, as a sportsman, hard to replicate in any aspect of life,” Kohli said.
Kohli is assured of his return to his favourite No 3 position after some experimenting. “The reason I feel more at home at No. 3 is I’ve played a lot of games there. I know I have a decent record at No 4 but I’ve played only 30-odd games there. The rest 120-130 games I’ve played at No. 3. That’s where I realised what my game was in international cricket. I can stabilise the innings and hold one end up so that the team can benefit. Even if we’re chasing, I can see the scoreboard and analyse the situation and play accordingly,” Kohli added.
With the new ODI rules coming in, Kohli is willing to play the waiting game. “It has become very difficult, especially in the sub-continent. It’s because the ball is getting old, the wickets don’t have much pace. It may not be a bad thing to have five fielders outside, you have more chance to rotate the strike play cricket with lesser risk. In the new rules, we need to do what we did in the last game — more of running and keeping the dot balls to a minimum.”
“It is very difficult to leave a 15 or 20 ball/run gap in the end. Say, for the last 10 you can’t afford to leave 80 (runs) in this new rule scenario. You need to stay ahead of the game because then you are probably chasing 5.5 or six in the last ten. You can still rotate the strike, play at run-a-ball and still get your score chased. In this new rule scenario, overs 20-40 have become the new 40-50. Smart cricket is required for a longer period in this situation and that is one of the challenges that I have experienced playing under these new rules.”
From frying pan to fire—Kanpur, Indore, Rajkot, Chennai— there is no escaping the heat, and Kohli and his team are fighting another battle against the elements.
“As far as I’m concerned it’s going to be the heat. We’ve played in Rajkot, in Chennai and now we’ve come to Mumbai - it’s not getting any better. So, I think that will be a challenge for both the sides. It has been a tiring series. You play, pack your stuff and you’re off the next morning. It’s very hectic. So the challenge will be physical as well as mental,” Kohli added.
For a man who until the last match in Chennai had not scored a century against South Africa, India would look to its biggest match-winner to deliver, having already declared his intention to steal the limelight. And for that, he will have to surmount a potent South Africa bowling attack, the challenge posed by the new ODI rules, the heat as well as the enormity of the occasion.