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2 wins and a defeat for Virat Kohli

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Virat_Kohli_India_cricket_captainA touch of class and a stamp of authority; the cover drive is the ultimate in what cricket has to offer. The cover drive is filled with a grace and charm that few other actions on a sporting field can match. In this day and age where innovation is the norm and where switch-hits, DilScoops & reverse sweeps etc. seem to be the preferred mode of action, the cover drive, completely moving along the turf, is pure ecstasy.

And is there a better sight in cricket than Virat Kohli playing the classical cover drive?

Over the past decade, Virat Kohli has ushered himself into greatness, scaling new heights and conquering lands unforeseen by any modern day cricketer. The past five years have, in essence, been the making of Virat Kohli, and it is safe to say that the transformation is now complete.

 

He is modern day cricket’s Arjuna, the legendary warrior from the epic Mahabharata, and much like Arjuna, Kohli is the fulcrum of his side. He is the hub around whom the team revolves.

Much like Arjuna, Kohli’s arrival on to the 22 yards sends shivers down most bowlers’ spines. Just as the twang of Arjuna’s bow struck fear into the heart of many a great warrior, the arrival of Kohli with his weapon of destruction makes even the best bowlers fret.    

Truth be told, Kohli isn’t anything you’d expect from an Indian cricketer. He is the polar opposite, more in the mould of John McEnroe, one of the great tennis players of the 1970s and 80s. In an age where tennis, and in particular Wimbledon, was as royal and reserved a sport as could be, McEnroe created a niche for himself with his aggressive, macho and brash playing. McEnroe's attitude on and off the court was never met with plaudits, but his game ensured that the American was still very much loved around the globe.

Kohli’s case is similar. He is always ready for a fight, ready to give his all, and that is what separates him from the rest. Not talent, but the will to succeed.

………..

India were taking on the Aussies, a team which had seemed to find their form at just the right moment. After Steve Smith elected to bat, the Aussies got off to the best possible start as India’s main weapon, Ravichandran Ashwin, was hammered all around the park. The first six overs were a nightmare for the Indian camp. A brilliant comeback fuelled by Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja and Ashish Nehra, along with some subpar batting, saw the Aussies end up at 160, a very competitive score on a pitch which seemed to get slower as the match progressed.

The opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma did little to help the cause as they were sent back to the pavilion without much delay. In came Kohli, and with him India’s fightback.

After the fall of Yuvraj’s wicket, in came Mahendera Singh Dhoni, one of the greatest finishers in the history of the game. What followed was a cricketing master class; not from Dhoni, but from Kohli.

Kohli batted like a man possessed. His innings will be very hard to forget. It is, perhaps, as iconic as Sachin’s ‘Desert Storm’ at Sharjah. The last three overs of the match will forever be remembered in cricketing folklore as Kohli’s demolition of the Aussies.

With 39 needed from three overs and a run rate constantly ballooning upwards, James Faulkner, a death overs specialist who had an endless supply of variations, strode in to bowl.

Four. Four. Six. Those three balls not only changed the complexion of the match, they showed us how good Kohli really is. They showed us that the great man can be brilliant on the back foot and on the front. He could even come down the track and loft Faulkner over long on for a six! It is moments such as those which make people sitting at home rub their eyes with astonishment. It is moments such as those which will stand the test of the sands of time and forever be etched in our memories.

 

It wasn’t just the results which Kohli obtained; it was the manner in which he obtained them. Those three deliveries weren’t easy pickings, yet with a touch of improvisation and some pure magic, Kohli did the unthinkable. With three balls and 14 runs, the over was already very successful, but he didn’t stop there, and this is proof of the real difference between him and ordinary men. After being in the crease for over an hour, he sprinted like there was no tomorrow even as the best fielders were after him. It is because of this audacious stroke play coupled with a brilliant cricket brain that Virat Kohli has become who he is today.

With 2 overs to go and 20 runs needed, Nathan Coulter-Nile was brought on to bowl. Continuing his onslaught, Kohli crushed the hopes of all the Australians, scoring 16 of the required 20 in that over itself. The final over, it was party time for the Indians as Dhoni finished off yet another memorable run chase for the Indians and, once again, it was Virat Kohli who had steered his team to safety.

In an earlier game against Pakistan, Kohli proved to be the difference yet again as he stayed right until the end and helped his country retain their unbeaten record against their biggest rivals in ICC tournaments. Unlike the semi final, Kohli didn't score a truckload of runs, nor did he score them particularly fast. Instead, we saw a calm and composed Kohli. It showed us how much he has evolved in the past few years. He was there, waiting till the finish line and ensuring that his team won. It wasn't a typical Kohli knock but it was a well loved knock.

He almost did it again against the West Indies. Almost. We saw a very different Kohli during the initial phase of his innings. Constantly shuffling, clearly not set, a few thick edges flying here and there and the ugly hoick off a Dwayne Bravo free hit for which he should've been out not once, but twice.

With an aura of invincibility and inevitability, and a few strokes of luck, Kohli began chiselling yet another T20 masterpiece in the most critical of situations.

And as Dhoni arrived, Kohli and Dhoni continued from where they left against the Aussies, converting more singles into couples than a matrimonial website. Kohli began assaulting the West Indian pacers. A featherbed of a Wankhede wicket and a batsman in form make a heavenly combination and it was that very combination that tore apart the West Indians and set a target of 193.

The Indians got off to the best possible start as Chris Gayle, chief destroyer of many a bowling attack, was soon sent back to the dugout. Even as millions watching the match felt that it was all but over, the West Indians slowly began their surge towards the total and, just like the Indians, they had their fair share of luck too.

The West Indian innings was, for the Indians, a classic example of Murphy's Law: Whatever could go wrong, went wrong. A plethora of no balls, some brilliant stroke making and inspired power hitting led the West Indies to a memorable victory which left a packed Wankhede stadium shocked and left many Indians, including yours truly, deep in anguish.

In between all the drama, in between all the sixes, fours, no balls, mishits, there was Virat Kohli, all in a world of his own, a world he ruled, where he was the best. Needless to say, he is living it. Another disappointing display by Jadeja, Ashwin and Hardik Pandya led to the ball being thrown to Kohli, quite possibly Dhoni's last resort. And my, my, he didn't disappoint. The Midas touch was on as an in form Jonathan Charles was immediately sent back, first ball. Sadly, that wasn't the end of it as Andre Russell and Lendl Summons steered the Caribbeans home.

In hindsight, Kohli is increasingly becoming like Tendulkar at his best. The whirlwind knocks, the cover drives, the effortless hooks, the astonishing play against the spinners, the tendency to carry the team on the back of his performance - everything just seemingly, effortlessly adds up.

Virat Kohli may never be as great as his idol, but one thing is clear: he is definitely a diamond in the rough. Virat Kohli is THE future of Indian, and quite possibly, World cricket. For the next 5-6 years.

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Only one person averages more than 40 in T20Is: Kohli, with an average exceeding 55 while the next best is a shade under 39. A stunning testament of his brilliance, even in the shortest format of the game. Amongst the plethora of other records he possesses, Kohli has a batting average exceeding 100 while chasing in T20s, and his average while chasing in ODIs is nothing short of extraordinary- 83.97. Numbers are just an indication of the brilliance of Virat Kohli. I assure you, there’s a lot more to him than that.

Every generation has great cricketers come its way. This generation has seen the likes of AB de Villiers, Joe Root, Mitchell Starc, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and many more, crop up. But the sheer dominance exerted by Kohli on his opposition is unmatched. He may not hit 360 degrees like ABD, nor is he the back foot player like Root, nor does he shift all round the crease. Instead, he uses classical cricket shots to decimate his opposition.

At the end of the day, as Ravi Shastri puts it, ultimately, Cricket is the victor.



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