Virat Kohli at MCG – Back to the genius

Virat Kohli at MCG

Suddenly Hardik Pandya screamed from the non-striker’s side, mass hysteria gripped the MCG, the kind of noise that even this famous arena, despite all it’s seen before, hasn’t quite heard. Something magical had just happened, something completely improbable.

Just before the sudden uproar, Virat Virat Kohli had looked at the scoreboard. Big screens showed there were eight balls left in the game: not enough for everyone, this was the game that should have lasted forever, but enough for one more spin, or maybe even two. India was still 28 years away and Haris Rauf, a stone’s throw from Pakistan’s victory with an impressive individual performance in his ‘other home’, on a day when he had already seen his first ball hit for six and then deliver hostile balls to dismiss Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav.

The 18.5 ball was a slower one that landed at a good length, the kind that proved harder to catch all night. For a bowler hitting 150 mph as Rauf did, the slower one is an added disappointment. Virat Kohli, who was deep in his fold, backed up a little and knocked him down with a near-vertical club for six and then backed out onto the square even as Pandya came screaming at him.

Imagine the situation and then imagine the consciousness of the game

India needed 60 runs from 30 balls to 54 from 24, 48 from 18, and then 28 from 8. With every ball off the line on that 19, and there were four, the game slipped. According to Pandya, Rauf’s last two deliveries had to be six to have a chance in the final. “Even a single six would have needed us to come out of the skin in the final,” Pandya would later say.

Now try to get inside Virat Kohli’s cleared head. Most batters would have succumbed to desperation and made a straight swing and taken a shot at the deep fielder who embraced the larger square limit, a 50:50 option at best. Not Virat Kohli. Under extreme pressure and in a one-out scenario, he recalled an important script in the pre-match data cheat sheet: ‘Aim for straight limits on the MCG, they are shorter.

Virat Kohli’s genius gene worked again

At this point, Rauf made the mistake of panicking. Never panic around Virat Kohli. He wants you to panic. He smells your panic and runs into it. Rauf got into the groove again but lost direction just a little bit and Virat Kohli hit him six more times with the thin leg. “Those two sixes were the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen [in a cricket match]. I usually keep my cool in the middle, but even I screamed,” recalled non-striker Pandya an hour after India held on to the win. had dragged. important. India-Pakistan match in a World Cup.

It’s easy to overdo it here, just as it’s easy to get used to the repetitive tone of Virat Kohli’s chasing brilliance. Virat Kohli himself put him above 82* from 51 balls against Australia in Mohali. Captain Rohit Sharma later expanded on that story.

“Yes, I think he has to go down as absolutely his best insurance, but I think because of the situation we were in, and to win, I think it has to be one of the best shots in India.”, not just his best shot. Because we were way behind the game until the 13th and the required speed was just going up and down,” said Rohit.

Virat Kohli has done chases before

Why, then, was this different and worthy of such proclamation? The combination of the opponent, location, tournament, and match situation, for starters. More importantly, though, this wasn’t the Virat Kohli sitting in the middle of a dream race, gobbling up records and doing chases for fun. This wasn’t the Virat Kohli who routinely celebrates milestones by showing off his bat with ball marks concentrated around the sweet spot and almost none on the edges.

His confession late in the game put him under pressure. The past two years have been lean. He stepped down as captain just before a forgettable World Cup campaign in Dubai and as soon as he did, his place in the T20 squad came under fire. Looking for a new page in T20 cricket, did India need an anchor in the Virat Kohli mold? Hadn’t he grown up in the game and embraced a full six-batter team? Couldn’t Virat Kohli just give up the international T20s and stick to tests and ODIs? It is to India’s credit that they kept it up during great days like these.

But despite everything, he remained defiant, and looked lanky but survived and waited for the tide to turn, for all those old feelings to return. This was a chase after a chase. Virat Kohli was after something that was after him.

Pandya asked him to “believe” and helped him out of trouble by targeting left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz for a couple of sixes. Virat Kohli found one herself. And that 12th over of 20 runs had the same effect as Iftikhar Ahmed knocked out Axar Patel in the first inning. He forced the captain to return to the rapids. But unlike Rohit, Babar didn’t have the luxury of a sixth archer, a poet like Pandya, so Virat Kohli made the most of his time, pushing the ball, running the twos and threes, relying on his fitness to get him to a point. . no return – the completed Rauf – from which the genius could spring into action.

“I have to be there at the end, that’s a simple statistic,” he would say in an interview with Star Sports at the end. “A lot of people talk about pressure when hunting. For me it’s clarity. You know exactly what you have on the board and you just have to have it. So it’s a difference in perspective, that always helped me. When the situation was such that you had to hit the big boys, I changed my bat, I played with a lighter bat because all three were bowling over 90 mph.

“I thought, I just crossed the line with the ball. And I kept believing in myself. Those two shots at Haris Rauf were the moment I was talking to myself: ‘You have to hit those sixes here, otherwise there is no chance.” ‘that we do it. you are going to win this match. And I told Hardik that if we can get close to him (Rauf), and if he goes for a big step, they’re going to freak out massively. And that’s exactly what happened.’

So the old Virat Kohli is back? Did he ever leave?

Those are just empty questions. It’s easy to get drunk on superlatives on a night like this. What was on display today was a truly rare combination: a great player who put in a great performance against high-quality opponents in a great location for years without looking great in big roles while creating greatness. And yet, as before, it was a timely reminder that despite all the gongs and glories of the past, the little restraint that has crept into his machine, Virat Kohli is still a man for the big moment and the big stage