There is an apocryphal tale of India's fast bowler of the late 1950s and 60s, Ramakanth "Tiny" Desai, who was all of 5 feet six inches tall, bowling to the great Australian batsman Don Bradman. The tale goes that when Desai bounced the ball at the Don, he had him in two minds: He didn't know whether to hit the ball for a six or a four!
It is undoubtedly a tall tale, for by the time Desai turned out for India (1959), Bradman (Test career 1928-1948) had already retired. But many a wag took delight in telling this tale, specifically at a time when India had only spinners worth the name and the joke was on the quality of the new ball bowlers.
The tale found an echo in Saturday's IPL T20 match when Royal Challengers Bangalore's formidable batting pair of skipper Virat Kohli (109, 55 balls, 5x4, 8x6 — strike-rate 198.18) and the incomparable AB de Villiers (129 not-out, 52 balls, 10x4, 12x6 — strike-rate 248.07) put the Gujarat Lions' bowling to the sword with a century apiece. The duo's only quandary during their staggering 229-run stand off just 96 balls was whether to hit the ball to the boundary or over it! They settled for both and smashed 15 fours and 20 sixes, to the eternal delight of their passionate fans. RCB piled up a gargantuan 248 for 3 in the 20 overs and eventually crushed GL by a whopping 144 runs.
The Kohli-ABD combine at work on Saturday was like a symphony orchestra working itself gradually towards a crescendo. The duo started off slowly, so slowly that a total under 170 looked within the realm of possibility, when the team’s total read 81 for 1 at the start of the 12th over.
The pair eased into their innings even as they sized up the pitch, a normal M Chinnaswamy Stadium T20 belter rather than the adjoining spongy one which was used against Mumbai Indians earlier in the week. The Lions erred in reading the strip and had picked three spinners. Thus, Kohli and ABD, even as they played themselves in, picked runs off the spinners in the first half of the innings. Twenty-three of RCB's 42 runs in the powerplay came off the two overs sent down by Shivl Kaushik and Praveen Tambe.
ABD and Kohli then launched a veritable blitzkrieg in the 12th over onwards, and GL's bowlers and fielders, who took the full blast of it, literally disintegrated. The pair took the scoring rate to stratospheric levels with a combination of power and innovative stroke play, and the unrestrained vociferous reception this frenzied assault drew from a packed RCB crowd almost blew the roof off!
The atmosphere during this battering was eerie, unreal and electric. One moment the crowd would be totally silent as Kohli or ABD took strike and awaited the bowler's offering. The next moment, when they clobbered the ball into the stands, the crowd would erupt with full-throated approval. And this went on, ball after ball, particularly in the last five overs when the duo added a mind-boggling, record 112 runs. Never before in the annals of T20 cricket had any team come within spitting distance of 100 runs in the last five overs, and here these two were smashing the daylights of anything that stood in their path.
Lions' wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik confessed after the match that there was precious little his team could have done on the day. "I was right behind the batsman and had the best seat in the house. It was unbelievable, the way they were clobbering the ball. AB was blasting sixes off the backfoot over covers and long-off. This was mind-boggling stuff."
The best part of ABD and Kohli's partnership is that they understand each other perfectly well. Their four century-partnerships this season, a record, stands testimony to that. Their running between the wickets is a sheer joy to behold as each gives his all in a quest to maximise returns for every ground stroke.
Of course, the fact that both are supremely fit athletes helps, particularly given the time of the year, with summer temperatures at their peak and could drain the strength and energy of lesser mortals. But not Virat and ABD. Both are explosive off the crease and the manner in which they steal singles, twos and even threes ensures that there is no respite for the fielding team. Thus, even when they are not clobbering the ball out of sight, they still keep the scoreboard ticking over with aggressive running between the wickets.
Another notable feature of their batting is that they stay perfectly still till the bowler delivers the ball. Then it is all a swirl of action. Both have supreme hand-eye coordination and exceptional skills to hit the ball to any part of the ground. Along with these skills it is their fearlessness to execute outrageous strokes that mark them out as extraordinary batsmen.
One particular incident when ABD improvised and lobbed Ravindra Jadeja over the packed off side field and over the vacant cover fence was so special that an appreciative Kohli came down the wicket to applaud it by imitating the shot.
In the last five overs, each was in his element. The fact that the score was 136 for 1 at the end of the 15th over (ABD on 77 off 37 balls; Kohli on 51 off 40) tells the story of the carnage in the final five. Praveen Kumar, Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo and Kaushik — skipper Brendon McCullum tried everything — pace, spin, orthodox, unorthodox, all to no avail. The bowlers were led like lambs to the slaughter as ABD and Kohli rained sixes and fours in a run feast that had no parallel in this IPL.
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Updated Date: May 15, 2016 11:34:14 IST