As soon as Virat Kohli slammed his fourth Test century of the year on Sunday, the Indian skipper waved his bat towards the dressing room and to the boisterous Wankhede Stadium fans.
On the top row of Level III was the man special to Kohli — his childhood coach and mentor, Rajkumar Sharma. Sharma flew down from New Delhi on Saturday, arriving when Kohli was about to take guard. He had come specially to see Kohli bat, on the insistence of his ward.
His stay got extended by a day as Kohli remained unbeaten on 147 on Day Three, going on to score 235, his career-best that also bettered a few other records, putting on a show for the packed Wankhede crowd on a blockbuster Sunday.
Virat Kohli has scored three double centuries, all this year, but Sharma lauded his ward’s latest knock. “It has come under difficult batting conditions. Chasing 400 is never easy and England always wanted to bounce back in the series. It was a good innings under pressure. It was a big responsibility,” Sharma told the HT as he watched Kohli’s innings.
The coach especially kept an eye on the technical adjustments they had decided to make before the fourth Test. Kohli stood on the middle stump to James Anderson and Chris Woakes while using an open-chested stance when leg-spinner Adil Rashid came on.
“He adapts very well. Rashid was bowling with six fielders on the on side and that is why he opened his stance so that he can find the gaps better. Anderson and Woakes were bowling with a seven-two field (seven on the off side). He took a middle-stump stance because he wanted them to bowl closer, otherwise they would bowl a negative line. If you keep leaving (the balls), then how are you going to win the match? That is why he stood on middle stump,” said Sharma.
The coach also pointed out that Kohli avoided playing the hook shot in the Wankhede Test. As soon as Kohli came on to bat, Jake Ball and Co hurried him with short balls, but Kohli wasn’t tempted to swing his bat.
“He just pulled one, but has resisted playing the hook shot because England had one short leg and a fielder in the deep. They wanted to bounce him out, but we had decided he will not play a hook shot till he reaches his half-century. Thereafter, I guess they haven’t really bowled him a bouncer.”
Another feature of Kohli’s double centuries has been playing along the ground. In the 200 against West Indies at Antigua and 211 against New Zealand at Indore, Kohli did not hit a single six. The Wankhede innings featured one, straight down the ground off Chris Woakes when he was on 225. “He has made a conscious effort to not hit sixes in Test cricket. He has all the shots to score runs, so why take any risk of playing the ball in the air. His intention is to play along the ground as much as possible,” said Sharma.