T20 World Cup: Lifted by singles, another Virat Kohli masterpiece

Don’t be underwhelmed by the statistical dissection of his innings—a 49-ball 57 at a strike rate of 116.32. Rather, be overwhelmed by its courage in the face of high-quality bowling.
Virat Kohli plays a shot in the T20 World Cup match between India and Pakistan. (AP) PREMIUM
Virat Kohli plays a shot in the T20 World Cup match between India and Pakistan. (AP)
Updated on Oct 24, 2021 11:55 PM IST
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Every innings begins from scratch and can end at nought. Trust Virat Kohli to make it count almost always though. We take it for granted, try to classify it as a template or method. Nothing of that sort happens when Shaheen Shah Afridi surgically removes two of the best openers in the modern game while Imad Wasim swings in the ball off a slow bowler’s run-up. The ground is big, the fielding is gun. This is India-Pakistan and you are India captain, standing at the non-striker’s end watching the innings almost come apart. How do you hold it together? You insulate yourself from the din and persevere. You make mistakes and learn. You are not just India captain. You are India’s last hope.

So don’t be underwhelmed by the statistical dissection of his innings—a 49-ball 57 at a strike rate of 116.32. Rather, be overwhelmed by its courage in the face of high-quality bowling. You could sense the situation he was in, finding it difficult to counter Wasim. Afridi’s pace and bounce made it a touch easier to leave or meet him out of his crease with the full face of the bat, till Kohli hoicked him over cow corner for a stunning six. That apart, this innings was founded and built on singles. Yes, Kohli depends a lot on singles and twos. He doesn’t charge from the first ball, as evident from his strike rates since the 2016 T20 World Cup—127 in overs 1-6, 128 in 7-15 and 196 in 16-20. But the restraint in this innings was spectacularly satisfying.

Till the 15th over, Kohli had hit just two fours and that six. Both boundaries were no-risk shots—one through point and cover opening his bat late to Hasan Ali, the second off his hips walking across the stumps and using Haris Rauf’s pace down the leg. Apart from that, Kohli was all about painstakingly liberating India’s innings with singles. Two off Afridi in the first over, then two off Wasim, Kohli was striving to find his stride and that gap. Babar Azam knew Kohli’s strength but his weakness better. So he packed the off-side and asked Kohli to use his wrists, hoping all the time Wasim would get in one that would grip and turn the other way. Kohli didn’t fall for it. He guarded his stumps, adjusted his stance and waited.

There was some back-foot involved this time to Shadab Khan and Mohammad Hafeez but Kohli kept going back to his leaning drives, to Rauf and again Shadab, allowing himself singles, sizing up the field every time. He waited and waited, till India crossed 100. That was the cue for Kohli to cut loose. First against Hasan Ali, who baited him with a slower bouncer. Kohli got inside the line and whacked it past short fine-leg. Next was off Ali again, this time a length ball trying to check Kohli’s advance. But he still played him inside out. Third one, again a slower one, was belted over cover. That was India’s fuel in the final overs. Afridi was as effective with the old ball as he was when it was new and Kohli’s dream unbeaten run against Pakistan in ICC events was finally over. All this might not make sense right now but Kohli still remains India’s saviour-in-chief.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Somshuvra Laha is a sports journalist with over 11 years' experience writing on cricket, football and other sports. He has covered the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, cricket tours of South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh and the 2010 Commonwealth Games for Hindustan Times.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2021