A 62 run innings off 78 balls cannot be considered great, but Indian vice-captain Virat Kohli may have played perhaps the most crucial knock of his career in recent times in the second ODI against the West Indies at the historic Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi. Struggling for runs for more than seven months, the stylish batsman arrived at the crease with India in considerable pressure at 50 for 2.
With Shikhar Dhawan perishing early and Ajinkya Rahane giving away his wicket because of constant tight and accurate bowling by the Carribean pacemen, Kohli, who came into bat a spot lower than his customary No.3 position had to work tremendously hard to get himself going. Initially, he appeared scratchy and mistimed the ball a couple of times before finding his rhythm much to the delight of his hometown crowd.
Once he got his eyes set, a huge score looked imminent as the runs began to flow from his willow. With a combined total of merely 109 runs in his last seven essays at the crease since his previous ODI century against Bangladesh in February at Fatullah, Kohli was determined to turn things around in his favor and his early intentions made it absolutely clear that he was quite eager to be back among the runs.
He was actually ready to do anything and everything to get back in form – he was extremely patient, extra cautious and played second fiddle to Raina during the larger part of his knock. Here, the time he spent with Little Master Sachin Tendulkar during the break after the England tour came in enormously handy. He successfully negated whatever movement the tall, fast bowlers of the opposition got from the track and also avoided the horizontal bad shots against the spinners until he felt comfortable with hitting the ball in the air.
He was watchful early on as it took him eight balls to open his account on the scoreboard. The elegant batter known for his aggressive approach went on to curb his natural instincts as he was aware of the risks at that stage of the match and hence, decided to play the role of the sheet anchor, which he played with some success as he amassed more than half of his score (34+8) with the help of ones and twos.
Though, there were a few encouraging signs too, as his signature shots – those classic flicks through the mid wicket region and the cuts in between the cover and backward point were on show as his self belief began to rise. With Suresh Raina acting as the attacker in the partnership, Kohli displayed every bit of his astuteness in pacing his knock. In fact, when the partnership between Raina and Kohli was on, WI bowlers looked a disgruntled lot and had no idea whatsoever about how to prevent the flow of runs.
Raina’s free flowing innings of 62 from 60 balls was equally responsible in easing out the pressure from the shoulders of Kohli as the right-hander bided his time in the center. By dabbing the ball gently in the mid wicket area, Virat reached his half century in 63 balls. As he raised his bat towards the crowd, a smile that had relief written all over it followed.
Just when the packed house inside the stadium started believing that there hero would treat them with a century, Kohli fell to Ravi Rampaul in his pursuit to up the run rate as he was caught in the deep by Marlon Samuels on the edge of the long off boundary.
Even if he was livid with himself after losing his wicket in such a manner, it was the right shot to play at that juncture as India had just lost Suresh Raina and Kohli had to change his role from a sheet anchor to an all out swashbuckler to let his captain MS Dhoni to get himself in. Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan as he got out, still it has to be said that the way he played clearly signal that Kohli is well on his way back to the big scores, the quick-fire hundreds we all have so loved to watch from his Adidas bat in recent years.
Still a long way to go to cement his position in Indian team. Few more series failures and selectors would be looking for alternative. There are truck load of youngsters waiting in queue and they all have potential to be next Virat Kohli. So buckle up dude and bring your best.