It is always a cricket lover's delight to watch Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma batting together in white-ball formats. Both are undisputed modern-day masters in limited-overs cricket and on Sunday, their class and elegance were on display. Against the one-dimensional Windies bowling attack on that flat track, the duo was in auto-pilot mode, sharing a 246-run second-wicket stand off just 187 balls, which helped India to chase down the target of 323 without any fuss whatsoever.
Last year, when the Indian team was at the Barsapara Cricket Stadium in Guwahati, Australian left-arm seamer Jason Behrendorff made life difficult for the hosts' top-order with his swing, seam and pace. He got rid of both Rohit and Kohli in the very first over of that T20I, which then triggered a batting collapse.
On Sunday evening, Jason Holder was perhaps hoping for a similar effort from his new-ball bowlers — Kemar Roach and young debutant Oshane Thomas. Despite having a competitive score on the board, the Windies camp was well aware of the capabilities of the power-packed Indian line-up. They knew getting breakthroughs with the new ball was the key. And when Thomas, in his first over in international cricket cleaned up Shikhar Dhawan, the spirits were high in the visitors' camp.
However, that first few overs were perhaps the only phase during the entire Indian innings when the visitors had some sort control over the proceedings. Soon the 22 yards turned into a slaughterhouse for the bowlers as Kohli and Rohit got into their groove.
Initially, the duo was very calculative in their approach. They did not go all guns blazing right from the beginning. Instead, both Kohli and Rohit divided their responsibilities and concentrated on playing risk-free cricket.
“[Chasing down] 320-plus totals are always tricky,” said Kohli in the post-match presentation. “But we knew it's all about one partnership. And life isn't difficult when Rohit is at the other end. It happens rarely that Rohit plays second fiddle. But today I felt good and I told Rohit that he should play the anchor role. I've always enjoyed batting with him.”
Kohli went after the pacers. Windies attacked him with two slips and shot-pitched bowling. But there was a lack of discipline in their effort. The Indian skipper was fed with too many boundary balls initially and every error from the bowlers was maximised. By the time the visitors realised their mistake, Kohli had crossed the 50-run mark off just 35 balls. Rohit, 18 of 21, at the other end was happy to play the second fiddle.
Noticing the pair running away with the game, Holder introduced his most likely wicket-taking option, leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo into the attack. But the move provoked a Rohit to change gears. He hit the leggie for back-to-back sixes in the fifth and the sixth deliveries of the 21st over.
And that was the start of the onslaught from both ends.
While Rohit was using his feet and the depth of the crease to dominate the spinners, Kohli kept on punishing the seamers with those emphatic drives and cuts. Both complemented each other brilliantly. After all, this was not the first time they paired together in India colours. This was, in fact, the 15th century partnership between Rohit and Kohli, as well as the fifth 200-plus stand in ODIs.
There is hardly a bowling attack in the world which can contain Rohit and Kohli, when they are in full flow. And this Windies attack lacks the 'X-factor'. Hence, there was nothing but a meek surrender as the duo batted with complete dominance. It took 88 balls for Kohli to reach his 36th ODI ton — his 22nd while chasing, whereas Rohit, who scored his first fifty in 51 deliveries, needed 33 more to get to his 20th ODI hundred.
Shot for shot — the two matched each other. At times it seemed like a rivalry, something similar to what Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis used to have with the ball in hand for Pakistan in the late 1990s and early 2000s. They both wanted to prove a point to each other and it only benefited the team. Perhaps, presently we are experiencing a similar sort healthy competition in Indian cricket between these two run-machines.
Nevertheless, after the dismissal of Kohli, Rohit turned into the aggressor and took India past the victory line with 47 balls and eight wickets to spare while himself crossing his sixth 150-plus score in ODIs, which is a record in itself.