India’s Tour Of Australia, T20 series
There’s something different about Virat Kohli when he walks to the crease in a T20 international game. There’s something about him wearing those Indian colors.
He isn’t the same man who leads the top-heavy Royal Challengers Bangalore. He isn’t the same man who needs to look in charge on the field – though being ‘charged up’ is an entirely different attribute. One look at how he taunted Steve Smith after the Aussie ballooned up a catch to him will tell you that Kohli isn’t the captain – which is why he holds no hostages. Perhaps it’s the fact that MS Dhoni is still the leader of the team in the shorter format.
More importantly, he channels all his aggression into his batting. He has mastered a format he was least likely to prosper in. When you think T20, you think Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma even…but you don’t think Virat Kohli – because he’s always there. He’s always scoring runs, and not in the glamorous, dismissive ways that the others on the list do. He plays T20 exactly the way he bats in an ODI chase; he actually builds and paces an innings, without ever falling behind the rate. Before you know it, he’s 15 off 10, then 30 off 20, then 40 off 25, and if he crosses this number, 70-80 off 50 – which is always a scoring rate of 130 and above – very good numbers for a top order batsman.
It’s no wonder then that he is the highest-ranked Indian batsman (at number 2 in the world) – after a superb 2014 T20 World Cup, when his bat led India into their second final. It’s also no wonder that he doesn’t have a century in this format; he doesn’t score quick enough for that, and rotates the strike, plays percentage shots and goes for the big ones only in the last few overs.
He has a few ‘not outs’ to his name – which has increased his average to an astronomical 48 after 31 games, and 1106 runs – the highest for any Indian batsman in this format.
His scores at the 2014 World Cup were 36*, 54, 57*, 23, 72* and 77 (in the losing final), followed by a 66 against England in a one-off in Birmingham later in the year. India only played two T20s in 2015, but now will play the three-match series against Australia, followed by the first-ever T20 Asia Cup, followed by the World Cup. And there’s nobody who adapts faster between formats than Kohli – as he is one of the very few Indian batsmen who plays across all three formats for the country (along with Dhawan, who frankly doesn’t deserve a T20 place, and Rohit, who doesn’t deserve a Test place).
I personally remember getting a first glimpse of Virat Kohli back in the first edition of the Indian Premier League in 2008, in a match between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore – who had picked up a 19-year old Kohli as a young hothead having just won the U19 World Cup. He lofted Harbhajan Singh for six in that innings, and I remember thinking – oh, the attitude. He didn’t do much for a few years, until he really came into his own when the ‘Test T20 team’ was revamped by the owners.
After his 90* against Australia at Adelaide which gave India a 1-0 lead in the series, Kohli will look to bring some cheer to a generally gloomy tour by destroying the Aussies again. He has put right his poor record against Australia in Australia by scoring two centuries in the ODI series, and now leading the standings here.
Only Aaron Finch, the Aussie T20 captain, is ranked above him in the world – but not for long, considering how the series is going.