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Virat Kohli not bothered by media scrutiny ahead of T20 series vs South Africa

Having won their ninth bilateral ODI series in a row, Virat Kohli-led India will now eye success in the T20 series vs South Africa starting February 18.

cricket Updated: Feb 18, 2018 11:32 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times, Johannesburg
Virat Kohli,Indian cricket team,South African cricket team
Virat Kohli on Friday played like a man possessed, exposing the frailties - the one-dimensional nature of hit-the-deck-kind - in South Africa bowling. (AP)

In the end, the ODI series wasn’t about India vs South Africa. It was about Virat Kohli vs South Africa, with the India skipper seemingly having a point to prove.

Without him, his 558 runs, his intensity, his confidence in attacking with his spinners and his desire to win that stemmed from the hurt suffered during the Test series, this series might have yielded zilch for India.

Kohli on Friday played like a man possessed, exposing the frailties - the one-dimensional nature of hit-the-deck-kind - in South Africa bowling. Likewise his bowlers, especially spinners, blossomed thanks to South Africa’s impatience to smack them T20 style.

And, it wasn’t just spin. India’s seam bowling too troubled the Proteas, senior batsman Hashim Amla in particular. Except in Port Elizabeth, SA lost their most experienced batsman even before the spinners could come on.

The story, however, has been Kohli who is just 14 centuries away from Sachin Tendulkar’s record of most tons and is within touching distance of getting to 10,000 runs.

With his latest century, Kohli showed that intimidation through short-pitched stuff doesn’t work against him. You need to outthink him, he excels when pricked and that rubs off on the team.

Coach Ravi Shastri, who accompanied him to the post-match presser, said, “You speak of intensity (in this team), where does the intensity come from? When you have a leader like that who leads by example, the other guys jolly well follow. Otherwise they know what to expect.”

As the team gears up for the T20 series beginning in Johannesburg on Sunday, Kohli isn’t resting on the laurels just yet.

“I know for a fact that 90% of the people did not give us a chance after the two Tests. I was sitting in the same room giving a press conference. So we understand where we have come from. I am not going to live in a dreamland right now and accept all the praise and sit here and feel good about this, because it does not matter to me, honestly it doesn’t,” he said after the game.

“It didn’t matter when we were 2-0 down and it doesn’t matter when we are 5-1 up because what matters is the change room, what team management thinks about me, what I think about the players and what they think about me. Headlines change day in and day out,” he added.

It is perhaps a good sign for the tourists who have dominated the one-day series that Kohli is keeping the success in perspective and not letting it spill over.

The T20 series should ideally be more competitive. India fielding coach R Sridhar had earlier talked about how a game with reduced overs, like the Wanderers ODI, brings the two teams on even keel. In short, there is less dependence on skills.

Players like Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller and Chris Morris, whose 20-30 ball cameos did little of worth in ODIs, will hold a lot more significance in T20 cricket than they did in the ODI matches.

However, former South Africa fast bowler and now commentator Fanie de Villiers feels that South Africa have not given enough importance to T20s. “They usually only play about four top players in T20s. I would have rather played top players in all formats in bilateral series against top teams like India,” he said. There is AB de Villiers though. He failed to get going in ODIs but his short knocks in the series were just good enough for T20 format.

While the hosts were outright favourites in the Test and ODI series, only to get jolted in the end, India begin favourites in the shortest format. They have a team full of players bred on this format at the IPL and are ranked No. 3 in the format, behind Pakistan and Australia. South Africa are languishing at No. 6 and part of that reason has been the lack of importance they’ve given to this format.

The two teams’ performance at the World T20 shows the difference - India have won, ended runners-up and losing semi-finalist once each. South Africa have only two semi-final spots to show.

First Published: Feb 17, 2018 19:29 IST

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