A bitter run out and a 50 in a lost cause, Virat Kohli was not in great ODI space against South Africa with the calendar year 2015 proving to be his leanest year ever. His last century had come eight months back and the criticism that his bat was falling silent was quietly growing on him.
On Thursday afternoon, Virat played an uncharacteristic knock, deliberately and decidedly different from many of his specials. His 138 on a sultry afternoon was a knock full of conscious calls, super safe approach and a runner’s delight. Virat exhibited two shades of his batsmanship: one part dealt in playing smart cricket without really being boundary-hungry, the other part in the style he generally exhibits.
Raised in an environment where a lust for boundaries and sixes immensely rules the cricketing psyche, Virat’s game is not modeled differently. With the slightest of opportunity Virat latches on to it, of course enhanced by an ability to hit far and long. But on Thursday, having lost both openers early, Virat was quick to grasp the situation, the one at hand and the other which must have been playing on his mind where trying to go for one shot too many cost him and the team dear.
A middle-order not quite living up to expectations, Virat realised the importance of his presence in the middle and decided to focus on finding the gaps seeking his comeback through singles. For a batsman possessing an incredible range of shots, Virat displayed remarkable self-restraint till he was sure of taking the team to a safe territory.
Till he scored 95, he had hit just four boundaries and two sixes, a total of 28 runs as against 49 singles and nine couples. In a severely humid Chennai, that needed some doing. And as he began to get cramps, he replaced his running between the wickets with the big shots.
After stepping out to hit Phangiso over long-on to bring up his 23rd century, Virat picked up his next 20 runs through two more boundaries and two more sixes.
Typical to his batting pattern where he generally takes off after 60, Thursday’s knock in many ways will stand out.
According to plan
On the eve of the match, Harbhajan Singh had said how the team was willing to take the singles and make it a habit throughout the innings. Virat showed how much that brief was ingrained in him. And, if the Rajkot match was the one reviewed, and the conclusion reached, Kohli must be the first to admit how many singles the Indians had missed out by just trying to hit boundaries.
An eminently sparkling century that has turned the game around for India, Virat for a change, fought it out with a different technique, with a different approach but without making his hundred any less attractive.