Successful teams across eras have usually been gifted with one player who has acted as the fulcrum of the side. Sachin Tendulkar, Inzamam-ul Haq, Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting all carried that prized tag in their respective sides. They were the ones their countries counted on when the going got tough.
Even in this strong India batting line-up, one name stands out – Virat Kohli. Ask any of India’s opposition in the World Twenty20 and they will be unanimous that the India No 3 is their main target.
As the best batsman in the side, Virat carries the responsibility of showing the way, and calming the nerves among his teammates as they begin another World Cup campaign at home.
Just falling short
He has unfinished business. In the last edition, in Bangladesh two years ago, he was Player-of-the-Tournament, but India lost in the final. This time, he looks even more determined. The build-up to the main event of the season was perfect for Virat, culminating in a match-winning innings in the final of the Asia Cup. Having tested himself, he would feel ready for the high-stakes tournament starting on Tuesday with the clash against New Zealand.
Virat is aware that it’s a perfect opportunity to build on his stature by taking his team all the way. However, even all-time great players will acknowledge that individually there is only so much one can achieve. Without strong support, success will be elusive.
This tournament provides a great opportunity for Virat because he can bank on his partnership with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. The trio gives the top-order an intimidating look; together they can rattle any bowling attack.
Three is company
Quite a few times since the start of the year, all three have clicked in some game. If not, two have got the job done. Even if only one clicks, as was the case on Saturday against South Africa in the narrow warm-up game defeat, he can be a handful as Shikhar was in Mumbai.
The three did well in the 2015 World Cup. Their partnership has flourished this year. In the one-day game at Perth, Rohit hammered 171 not out and Virat made 91 against Australia. In the second ODI in Brisbane, Rohit hit 124 and Virat 59. And in Adelaide, Shikhar’s 68 complemented Virat’s 117. In the Asia Cup final, when Rohit got out early, Virat and Shikhar took the game away from Bangladesh.
Virat said the key to their success as a group was the awareness of what role would suit each on the day. “As Shikhar has mentioned, his role is pretty clear, to go out there and take on the first six overs, take on the fielding restrictions. Rohit again, me and him sort of think on the same lines, of assessing the situation and seeing where your partner’s going or what’s he playing like, who’s hitting the ball better.
“So, we have been able to bring in awareness when we’ve batted in the first 10-12 overs, which obviously helps a side, build totals or chase totals down because you need to be aware of what’s happening, how the other guy is hitting the ball, whether you need to take a step back or go out there and dominate.
“So I think it’s very important to be aware every ball, and that’s something all three of us collectively have been able to do well in the past few series that we have played.”