India vs Australia: India won by 5 wickets
You know the country is elated when Poonam Pandey dedicates a “belfie” (boob+selfie) to the team and its shining batting superstar. That is the national sign of a job well done, as absurd as it sounds. And it only happens during World Cups, in pressure cauldrons, in stifling strife and do-or-die situations.
Not for the first time, the Indians knocked the Australians out of a World Cup at the (virtual) quarterfinal stage.
It became a shootout, what with the Kiwis having won all their games. Both India and Australia lost their first World Cup game to New Zealand – and both fought back to put themselves in this no-holds-barred brawl in Mohali, a venue that had hosted one of contemporary Indian cricket’s famous victories – the semi-final against Pakistan in the victorious 2011 World Cup campaign. The World T20 championships don’t have that hallowed feel yet, perhaps because they occur every two years, but make no mistake, this tournament is only a few years away from gaining utmost priority. The increased number of T20 internationals being played is a sign, and it simply doesn’t become about teams getting cobbled together at the last moment anymore.
On 27th March, 2016, four years after India won that Mohali semi-final, and four days after they were on the verge of being knocked out of the tournament by Bangladesh in Bangalore, India reasserted their initial status as tournament favorites. Nobody will bet against them in the next two games, and certainly not at the Wankhede stadium against an unpredictable West Indies T20 team four days from now.
In the process, one man – and it’s always one man – cemented his status as an all-time limited overs’ great. And he is only 27. Virat Kohli, not for the first time, and definitely not the last, dragged India home in a crucial match in front of a capacity crowd by scoring half of India’s target. Most importantly, he remained not out till the end. Comparisons with Tendulkar and the rest will continue, but Kohli has carved out for himself a private place in history. Nobody is as dependable as him in an unlikely chase scenario, and nobody is as confident as him. After doing it against Pakistan twice in a month, he turned to his old foes Australia and knocked them out single-handedly by playing perhaps the finest T20 international innings we have ever seen. The format is only a decade old, but between Marlon Samuels’ 2012 final innings and this one by Kohli, we already have two efforts that can rate right up there amongst the ODI and Test pantheons. For Kohli’s innings was structured masterfully, and almost at will, he found boundaries (mind you, not sixes) and twos in the field, when they didn’t exist.
No amount of adjectives and analysis can do justice to “yet another” Virat spectacle. He always steps up, and almost always pulls off the impossible. I know that I will, like many of you, lose count of which innings was how special (because there are so many) while narrating these experiences to my grandchildren.
Instead, let’s take a near-honest look at the numbers that Kohli, the team and the Australians created in the process:
51: Number of balls it took Virat Kohli to score his 82, more than 50% of the 161 target.
35: Number of runs scored by Kohli in his final 12 balls, including 6 fours and a six.
30: Number of disapproving nods given by Steven Smith on the field, in addition to the 32 nods after being dismissed by Yuvraj Singh.
9: Number of T20 internationals won by India against Australia in their 13 played (3 out of 5 won in World T20s).
0: Number of World T20 tournaments won by Australia. They have only reached 1 final, back in 2010.
0: Number of happily-ever-afters experienced by Shane Watson on his last day of international cricket.
3: Number of fans who will go red with nostalgia when they hear the name Brendon Julien in the commentary box.
8: Number of fans, including Julien’s family members, who are happy he isn’t playing in this era of batting and bowling.
3: Number of days it took for James Faulkner to come crashing down to earth after his five-for against Pakistan (his 18th over to Kohli broke the back of Aussie resistance; he gave away 17 runs).
2: Number of signs by Steven Smith in the presser once he knew he had to use the terms “special” and “serious” to describe rival Kohli’s innings.