Great batting has been as much about technique as clarity of thought, especially against hostile fast bowling. Tackling the short stuff is what sets apart the best from the rest. For Sunil Gavaskar, the key was never to take the eye off the ball, either play at it or watch it go past. For Mohinder Amarnath, courage was a key element as he never hesitated to play the hook.
The bouncers never worried Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. They tackled it with their distinct styles, an exhibition of their technique and mental strength. And modern batsmen have video analysts to dissect their every flaw.
But eventually, it is the individual. Virat Kohli has become a leader in the young India side. While Cheteshwar Pujara plays only Tests, Kohli has established himself as a future great in limited overs cricket as well. At Napier, he was in command as New Zealand’s four-pronged pace attack consumed openers Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan as well as Suresh Raina and skipper MS Dhoni with the short stuff.
Kohli’s 123 was not enough in the end, but it was an innings of authority. On Tuesday, Kohli showed how far he has come since his days as a brash batsman, the 25-year-old giving a fascinating insight into his technique and mental process, something that should serve as education to his team mates.
“I was pretty weak in that aspect when I came into international cricket,” he said. “My leg used to fall across and I used to be very susceptible to lbw.” In South Africa, Kohli struggled against pace and bounce but was brilliant in the Tests. “One thing I learnt there was whatever you do, you need to commit to it fully because people are bowling at you at 140-145 kph. You got to read the length and commit to the shot. If you want to leave the ball too, you have got to commit. So, my head was pretty clear when I was batting. A bouncer is never to scare you away, it is just to put in the batsman's head that there might be a short ball coming, another one, because you have two in the over now (in ODIs).”
Kohli stressed on fitness, balance and a positive approach. "If you are not fit enough, you might not have the reflexes to actually tackle a ball thrown at 150 kmph, you might be totally exposed or found in a very uncomfortable position.
He added: “Even to leave a bouncer, it is very important to want to hit the ball. If you are looking to leave, your weight is already on the back foot and then you are in no position to leave or hit. ”
For him, it is always the pull over the hook. “If I have a good base, then I have the confidence to actually pull, and I look to hit it in front of square. I hardly look to hook unless it is on my body. It gives you that extra half a second because you know you have to hit the ball in front of square, so you have to be quick enough to do that.”