Kohli scores, India wins
Sandeep Kumar Delhi
March 26, 2015, ICC World Cup semi final, Australia vs India at Sydney. Chasing a target of 328, Virat Kohli top edged a bouncer from Mitchell Johnson, much to the shock of the billions of cricket fans in India. As a dejected Kohli took a walk to the stands, the headlines read, ‘Kohli has been cracked’.
Ironically, a year after, against the same opponent in a virtual quarter final in the World T20, and that too in more adverse circumstances, he mastered the chase with ease, lucidity and glory. Chasing in a crucial match on an adverse wicket in a difficult situation sounds no longer impossible when you have Kohli on the pitch. Surely, the best chaser -- yes, if not of all time but definitely in the current era. Some will debate on names like Michael Bevan, AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle, Joe Root or Kane Williamson, but Kohli is one step ahead of all these while batting second.
Chasing a competitive total of 161 and seeing wickets tumbling regularly at the other end, Kohli was calm and calculative. He saw Rohit Sharma losing his middle stump dancing down the track, deceived by a slower ball, Suresh Raina, predictably and inevitably, undone by a short delivery; and a struggling Yuvraj Singh refusing the second run on several occasions.
Kohli hit six boundaries and a six in the next eleven balls. He cut, pulled, and opened the face of the bat to guide the yorkers to the point region for four. He found gaps with ease and drove past cover and the extra cover region with supremacy. Single-handedly, he took the game away from the Aussies
However, once MS Dhoni arrived with fresh legs, Kohli knew the chase was on. India needed 67 of in the last six overs. The duo ran like sprinters in between the wicket; they ran four doubles in the 16th over. Dhoni slashed Shane Watson for four on the last ball of his spell leaving India to get 39 runs of the last three overs. What happened next was a treat to watch.
Kohli hit six boundaries and a six in the next eleven balls. He cut, pulled, and opened the face of the bat to guide the yorkers to the point region for four. He found gaps with ease and drove past cover and the extra cover region with supremacy. Single-handedly, he took the game away from the Aussies.
As Dhoni hit the winning runs in his trademark style, Kohli dropped to his knees, thanked the almighty and waved his bat, much to the delight of thousands of fans in Mohali who were cheering his name nonstop. It has become part of the folklore in contemporary times. When Kohli scores, India wins.
India, the only Asian team to qualify for the semis, will now take on the West Indies at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday, March 31. New Zealand will lock horns with the Englishmen in the other match at the Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi. Going into the semis, India will have to be at their best against the maverick and talented West Indians. Indeed, it has to be a team effort.
The Indian top order has been a one-man show since the Asia Cup in Bangladesh. Rohit, Raina and Shikhar Dhawan have continuously been struggling in the powerplays, despite the many chances they have got. Yuvraj is yet to find his mojo. Surprisingly, Indian batsmen have never been on such a lean patch ever on domestic Indian wickets. With the entire pressure on Kohli, and the rest of the team failing, it could cost them the World Cup again, as it happened two years ago against Sri Lanka in the World T20 final of 2014.
Bowling has been the main strength for the Indian team in this tournament. With the current form of Indian spinners in mind, the tie against West Indies can be expected to be interesting on a spin-friendly wicket. The West Indies succumbed to Afghanistan’s eclectic spinners and failed to chase down 124 in their last group stage match. The return of explosive Chris Gayle in the semis will definitely be a big boost for the Caribbean team.
1st Semi-Final: New Zealand v England, Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi (Wednesday, March 30, 19:00 IST).
2nd Semi-Final: India v West Indies, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, (Thursday, March 31, 19:00 IST).
1st Semi- Final: Australia v England, Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi (Wednesday, March 30, 14:30 pm IST)
2nd Semi-Final: New Zealand vs West Indies, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, (Thursday, March 31, 14:30 IST)
Final: TBC, Eden Gardens Kolkata (Sunday April 3, 14:30 pm IST onwards)