Virat Kohli ticks off his inner Pant
A massive inside-edge into his pads, a miscued flick, a wild hack, a cheeky attempt at a ramp…Virat Kohli – the same man who did a backward split of his legs to get back into his crease – was completely out of balance at the crease early in his innings at Hyderabad in the first T20I against West Indies.
Virat Kohli’s T20 game, pretty much like his ODI game, is based on not powering through, a quality that took a complete backseat as he tried to go too hard early on in the innings at Hyderabad. You could see him fret under the helmet, swearing at himself as though to question the very core of his skills.
Even as KL Rahul was keeping India’s run-chase within the graspable realm, Kohli, stuck in his own world, seemed to be unhappy. Forever the team man, the Indian skipper, for once, appeared out of sorts as he selfishly looked to play himself back into form.
Social media buzzed as Kohli ambled along to 20 off 20 balls with the asking rate soaring. A few T20Is back, Shikhar Dhawan’s match-losing knock – a 42-ball 41 – against Bangladesh at Delhi had invited quite a few criticisms. Here, Kohli seemed headed down a similar path.
A day earlier, he had called out to the fans to back Rishabh Pant and reduce pressure on the youngster. Here, even as the crowd – in a completely opposite manner – egged him on, Kohli was batting every bit like Pant.
seeing him try shots I've never seen in the last 7-8 years
— Srinath (@srinathsripath) December 6, 2019
He was off-balance and went through with his shots too early. The timing was off and West Indies compounded his woes by cutting off the twos that he so often runs with his sinewy strides when the boundaries aren’t flowing. In short, he was completely edgy and appeared nowhere close to the batsman who creates music when ball pings bat.
The thing with Kohli, though, is that he knows his game all too well. He knows himself all too well. As India struggled to match up with the required rate despite losing only a single wicket, Kohli knew he couldn’t tread down a similar path. But what do you do if it’s your off-day? Normal batsmen keep playing ugly hoicks until they get out. Not Kohli.
“I mean I was trying to hit the ball too hard. I think it was just about keeping up with the game. You know, 10-plus an over to chase and I didn’t want to put KL (Rahul) under pressure, so I wanted to contribute from the other end, striking at 140 at least. But I couldn’t get going properly,” Kohli told in the post-match presentation ceremony.
“I’ve always believed in the past as well, whenever I’ve played T20 cricket. I’m not someone who comes to the stadium wanting to entertain people hitting the ball in the air. I want to get the job done,”
Kohli was quick to make amends and identify what works for him to “get the job done” – his innate aggression that helps him get into groove.
In the 12th over of the innings when Jason Holder bounced him a second time – the first time he had looked to play the ramp and missed – Kohli swatted hard but the ball flew off his top-edge and over the fence for six. A ball later, he hacked a full-toss along the ground through mid-wicket for four and looked down before shaking his head.
Clearly, Kohli wasn’t happy with his timing. Clearly, he wasn’t middling even full tosses. The runs, though, were coming, but it had to keep coming.
Next over, as Kesrick Williams accidentally nudged Kohli while moving across to collect the ball, the Indian skipper was furious. He immediately signalled at the umpire about the elbowing and the head-shaking became more vigorous even though Williams was at no fault. Kohli perhaps knew it too, but he seemed too pre-occupied in getting his own adrenaline up.
Kohli had by then set himself up for the final flourish, but he still needed to give his inner ego a boost to completely get out of Pant-mode. When Williams returned from around the wicket in the 16th over, Kohli thumped one down the ground for four. Next ball, Kohli whipped a near-yorker with such elegance over mid-on for six – the shot that would, in hindsight, get him out of his slumber at Hyderabad.
— Rohit Yadav (@cricrohit) December 6, 2019
Animated by now, Kohli pulled out an imaginary notebook from his pocket and ticked off thrice, imitating Kesrick Williams’ famous celebration. “It happened to me in Jamaica when he got me out, so I thought I’ll tick a few in the notebook as well,” Kohli later said in the post-match presentation ceremony.
It sure gave him the confidence that the run-chase was truly on. He had shaken off his initial fickleness and was starting to find the middle of the bat more often. By the time he was ticking off Williams, and later Pollard, Kohli was into full-on drama mode – aggressive, even brash and annoying, if one may call him so.
But what works for him, works for him. And he knows it. Like it or not, Kohli won’t back down from a fight, even if it’s him at the other end of it. At Hyderabad, he was in a one-on-one battle with himself that he soon turned into a macho battle with the West Indian players and before they knew what hit them, Kohli had completed the run chase, stealing 54 in 19 balls since his run-in with Williams.