For Kohli, It Is To The Limit and Beyond
Virat Kohli is an incredible combo of talent, technique, and temperament
Pressure. It does strange things to people. Succumbing to it a bowler sends down a no ball or a wide, a batsman plays a horrible cross batted swipe that results in his dismissal, a fielder fails to make an easy stop, a wicket keeper fumbles with a regular stumping, a captain makes an erroneous decision. This is what pressure is all about.
But what about the cricketer who doesn't feel any pressure whatever the situation? Ultimately pressure is something you put on yourself by feeling the tension when a game enters its climactic stage.
The really cool, calm and unflustered cricketer who has a steely temperament and enjoys the game refuses to give way to this compelling or overpowering factor. Indeed he is the immovable object who gets the better of the irresistible force.
Enter Virat Kohli. Yes he is the immovable object who overcomes the irresistible force not just by standing firm but by thrusting a counter force. He doesn't believe in defensive measures, only attacking strokes even in these unmitigated circumstances.
He has always played his cricket aggressively – and this is sometimes seen in his behaviour that has crossed the line on quite a few occasions. As a batsman though he is in a class of his own, the world's best across formats. He has been the only player to average 50 plus in all three formats. It is only recently that his average inTests has dropped to 49.
Kohli is an incredible combo of talent, technique and temperament and now his vast experience makes him the ultimate opponent. For 14 years we have seen Kohli who turns 34 in ten days time pull off one incredible rescue act after another making him the master of the chase in the two limited overs formats.
On Sunday though he eclipsed everything he has accomplished before, moving Rohit Sharma to describe it as "not just his best knock but also one of India's best knocks in T-20 cricket.''
The Indian captain was probably echoing the view of every cricket fan who saw the ethereal innings. It was superlative even by Kohli's exalted stature. It was Mission Impossible even for this doughty fighter.
The top order had crumbled in a heap, the asking rate hit the ceiling and a purposeful Pakistan team was on the rampage moving steadily for the kill. With Hardik Pandya for company, Kohli turned on the heat, reached his half century, but was he leaving it too late?
It certainly seemed so with 48 runs required from the final three overs, two of them to be sent down by their best paceman Shaheen Afridi and Haris Rauf.
Seventeen came from the Afridi over but 31 from two overs was still a daunting prospect. However, Kohli knows no such thing. Phlegmatic as ever despite the pressure cooker situation he now turned his attention to Rauf.
But Pakistan's best bowler was in no mood to relent. Keeping his cool under pressure he conceded only three runs off the first four deliveries.
Even for Kohli it appeared that 28 runs off eight balls was asking for too much. Any other batsman would have even given up but Kohli has never believed in showing the white flag of surrender. So what does he do? He simply hits two successive sixes to bring the equation down to 16 off the last over.
The master now of all he surveyed, Kohli took in his stride the fall of Pandya to the first ball of the last over and the dismissal of Dinesh Karthik as he inched India towards the target which was finally reached off the last ball.
It would have been in the fitness of things had he hit the winning run but it doesn't really matter for Kohli who has scripted in an incredible finish, straight out of the book of fables. Little wonder that he rated his 82 not out off 53 balls with six fours and four sixes as his greatest knock in T-20s given the grim situation it was compiled in, the magnitude of the match and on the biggest stage of all – a World Cup match at the MCG. That's what Kohli excels in – putting the pressure right back on the bowler and the fielding side.
Bat in hand, Kohli displays wondrous skills. He has all the text strokes with plenty of time to play them and then adds a few of his own when it comes to limited overs cricket.
His hitting is bold and vigorous and he has a rock solid defence based on a sound technique but this is generally seen only in Test matches. Refusing to sit back on his laurels he is hungry for greener pastures and is always on the lookout for new peaks to conquer. Perhaps best of all he loves a challenge as he showed on Sunday.
For all his talent, skill and experience, it is Kohli's temperament that has seen him emerge as the biggest name in Indian cricket in the last decade. This is his biggest asset for he is least overawed by a bowler's reputation or the precarious situation his side is in.
He plays his strokes freely – even with gay abandon – befitting someone who is confidence personified. Moreover his insatiable appetite for runs and his hunger for success remains unmatched. The adage goes "sky's the limit'' but Kohli has stretched this as "to the limit… and beyond.''