Champion is what champion does!
The peerless Virat Kohli forcefully drove this adage home with yet another magnificent display of batsmanship to pilot India to an authoritative overseas series win over West Indies.
Much had been said and written about the West Indies strategy of unsettling him early in the innings. The ploy was to make him play strokes early on, something he usually eschews. The short-pitched deliveries that he usually ducks or weaves away from till he gets used to the pace and bounce of the pitch was liberally used to provoke a false stroke. Another ploy was to get him to play outside the line of the off stump early on in the hope that he would edge to the slips or wicket-keeper.
These tactics had worked in earlier matches as Kohli, frustrated by the lack of opportunity to get those quick singles and twos that ease him into his innings, played into the hands of the bowlers.
But champion batsmen have a sense of timing that is often impeccable. They rise to the occasion and turn on the heat when the side needs it the most. Their manner in getting back at the bowlers sets them a class apart.
Sachin Tendulkar’s sensational assault on Pakistan’s terrific fast bowling trio of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa readily comes to mind. Tendulkar launched a stunning counter-attack during the course of his 98 that made light of the target of 274 to propel India to a memorable win.
The West Indies bowling might not have been as experienced as that Pakistani attack. But it had delivered quite adequately in this series. In fact, they had bowled the team to an upset win in the previous ODI while defending a small target of 189. The tall fast bowlers, Jason Holder and Alazarri Joseph, in particular, were outstanding.
The home team probably thought they would stick with the same battle plan of defending a target. They made 205 and then prised out opener Shikhar Dhawan in only the second over. This triggered a feeling of déjà vu.
Except that Kohli walked out to join Ajinkya Rahane with his own strategy. To start with, defence was the best form of offence as far as he was concerned.
The West Indies fast bowlers peppered him with a variety of short-pitched deliveries; some head-high, others aimed at his rib cage. But Kohli got into the zone, so to speak, and steadfastly stuck to the straight and narrow path of garnering singles.
Importantly, his partner Rahane batted in a different gear to ensure that the team would not be bogged down. Rahane drove, cut, flicked and pulled the bowlers at every opportunity and this kept the scoreboard ticking over.
The opener was going at nearly a run a ball and was on 24 from his first 25 deliveries. Kohli, at the same stage of his innings had a mere 17. He had ducked under some bouncers and let many others go. But by the time he faced 25 deliveries, he got used to the nature of the pitch. He disdainfully hooked Joseph in front of square to signal that he was back in his groove. From then on, it was vintage Kohli all the way.
Kohli pacing his innings was a masterclass by itself. He reached 25 in 40 balls; 50 in 67 balls; 75 in 86 balls and 100 in 108 balls. His unbeaten 111 came in 115 deliveries and was studded with 2 sixes and 12 boundaries.
During the course of the innings and the way in which he paced it, the Indian skipper proved why he is the ultimate batsman in run chases.
The important thing for him was to get his eye in. Once that was done, he never lost concentration or focus. Little wonder then that this master batsman has a world record 18 centuries in only 102 run chases. Sachin Tendulkar, the previous record holder, had 17 centuries from 232 innings while third placed Tillekaratne Dilshan lies third with 11 tons from 116 innings.
Kolhi’s amazing consistency is further exemplified by his staggering 28 centuries and 43 fifties from only 181 innings — a sizable knock once every two-and-a-half innings!
Make no mistake: Kohli was under immense pressure. The team had lost the fourth ODI; there was the controversy with the former coach and he was seemingly sorted out by the West Indies pacers. He put all these issues behind, stayed focused and with extraordinary determination showed why we are watching a legend in the making.
Truly champion stuff! Bravo Kohli!
Updated Date: Jul 07, 2017 13:36 PM