A different Virat Kohli

When you know you’re the best batsman in the Indian team, automatically there are a billion hopes pinned on you. It’s a different kind of pressure, one that is taken for granted—the price one pays for being the best in this country. Commercial breaks have you in them, housewives know just one name in the team, and crowds gather around a screen hoping to watch your trademark shot. Virat Kohli hasn’t quite reached the stage where fans wait for the openers to get out so that they can watch him walk in to an ovation.

 

He is a few years away from that, and his abrasive personality just makes him more of a prodigy at the crease than an adult wielding a baton.

But when he walked in against Pakistan at Adelaide, it was difficult to ignore the sheer weight of expectations on his shoulder. He had taken the world by storm in between his two World Cups, had cemented his place in both sides, captained the team and had already seen enough dips in his career to know that cricket can be a fickle game.

He walked in at the fall of Rohit Sharma, a much more talented batsman who could have been Kohli if not for his failing temperament, a man who had thrown away his wicket despite being in the form of his life. The pitch was a belter, and there was no way any team batting first should post less than 300. Kohli played his first 20 balls like a man aware of the expectations, hopes and dreams. He looked tight, and fearful of losing his wicket early. He barely scored a run, and profited from a dropped catch, before opening up a little and realizing that this Pakistani attack was perhaps the poorest he had played.

Much credit goes to Dhawan’s attacking play at the other end, which allowed Virat Kohli to – for the first time – graft his way into an innings.

Many were reminded of an older Tendulkar entirely aware of how his team might collapse if he didn’t bat through the middle overs. Kohli, at no point, scored more than a run a ball. If he came close, he’d reel himself back, making a conscious attempt to stay at the crease and pace himself. He refused to get carried away in the powerplay overs, so much so that many wondered why he was familiarly slowing down before getting to his century. Kohli has made better centuries, and that we can say this about a man who is just 25 and has 22 ODI centuries says quite a bit about his record. However, he has rarely scored a more important century on a bigger world stage. He started the 2011 World Cup with a century against Bangladesh as a greenhorn, but here, as the batting mainstay of a team struggling to stay afloat in Australia, he may have just rejuvenated his colleagues and fooled the world into believing a purported master-plan that seems to have had all of them out of form and peaking at the right time. Wishful thinking, but Dhawan looked good to go, as did Kohli—both of who were woefully out of form in the tri-series.

This is only a Pakistani team they defeated though, perhaps the most beatable Pakistani squad in years. The only way India was going to win their first official match of their long Australian tour was if they played an Asian team. And they did. 

Maybe their next big win could be against Sri Lanka in the quarterfinals—a draw that could favour them now that they seem destined to finish behind South Africa in Group B.

 

Unless Zimbabwe and Ireland have different plans.

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