Looking for big, match-winning tons: Kohli
Mumbai, Aug 6: The one trait that defines the much-celebrated Virat Kohli is his ability to learn, and learn fast. Currently the mainstay of the batting line-up, when the 23-year-old is at the crease, fans and experts are confident of India’s chances in a game.
An empathic series win over Sri Lanka lifted India, and its vice-captain, to second position in the ICC ODI team and batting rankings respectively. The prodigious Kohli has been India’s batting hero over the last year, especially in the shorter format of the game; he has 13 hundreds from 87 innings in 90 ODIs.
Kohli’s match-winning, unbeaten ton in the fourth ODI – his eighth in chases and 13th overall – is also his fifth century against Sri Lanka. Among Indian batsmen, only Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir have more centuries against Sri Lanka. Only Tendulkar (14 centuries) had more hundreds than Kohli (13) before turning 24.
His series tally of 296 runs at an average of 74.00 is the third-highest for an Indian batsman in a bilateral ODI series against Sri Lanka. The highest aggregate is MS Dhoni's 346 runs in 2005.
The batsman, who has been in sublime form since the past year, has worked hard, on his temperament in particular, to stay in the zone and make the most of it.
“When you walk down [to bat] and play about eight dot balls, it is very easy to step out and go for that big one. But when you get out you realise that you have lost one more wicket and the new guy going in might play 10-15 dot balls more. So you have that advantage over that guy coming in to bat [after you] because you are set. You can actually start rotating the strike and hit the odd balls in between for boundaries. It was about analysing the situation and playing your roles perfectly. My main aim, when I get set, when I get 70-80 [runs], is to get a big hundred and let the team win and not to leave the situation in the middle,” Virat explained during the series against Sri Lanka.
The 146-run stand between Kohli and Suresh Raina in the fourth ODI in Colombo is the third-highest fifth-wicket stand for India against Sri Lanka. The highest fifth-wicket stand (223 runs) for India against Sri Lanka, between Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja, also came at the R Premadasa stadium.
The partnership run-rate of 7.82 during the stand is the second-highest for a fifth-wicket stand (100-plus partnerships) and the seventh-highest overall for India against Sri Lanka. The same pair holds the record for the best run-rate (13.09), which came during their 120-run stand in Hobart earlier this year.
Kohli’s 173-run partnership with Virender Sehwag in the opening game of the series is the fifth-highest second-wicket stand for India against Sri Lanka. It is, however, India's second-highest such stand in Sri Lanka.
Known for his aggressive displays of emotion on and off the field, Kohli is learning to channelise his energy positively, making him a more mature and thinking cricketer. The aggression that drives him is still there, but it is now controlled making it more potent. After scoring an unbeaten 128 in the fourth ODI, helping India seal the seal the series, he said, “I don’t want to reduce my aggression but the line has been crossed three or four times and I would like to improve on that. It remains at the back of your mind because it doesn’t look good on TV. My aggression will never go down because that is my plus point but [bad] on-field behaviour and crossing the line don’t look good on TV. As a professional cricketer, I think one should be able to behave on the field. I am learning with time and improving too so I just hope that I don’t cross the line again and keep doing well for the team.”
The new and improved Kohli now shapes and manoeuvres the innings once he is set. And he showed that as India chased 251 in the fourth ODI in Colombo. He told the media after the match, “It’s a five match series so the effort is always to score as many runs as possible for the team. In the previous match I was disappointed with my performance as I got out after scoring 40 runs. I gave a good platform [to the team], had a 100-run partnership. But with still about 150-odd runs to be scored, I threw my wicket. I was very disappointed especially since I hadn’t done such a thing in quite some time. I thought about it in the nets. I gave some thought to what could have been the reason [for that happening] and worked on it and today I could execute [my plan] well in the match.”
His century in the first ODI was his first century in Sri Lanka, a side against whom he now has five tons. He has now scored more hundreds in 2012 than any other batsman. There is a method to his clinical massacre of the opposition. He said after his century in the first ODI, “Coming into this game, I think it was really important how my mindset was going to be in this season. This season is really important for the team so I really put a conscious effort to stay as relaxed and as calm as possible before the match and it really paid off. I was able to stay in that zone, stay in that calm place and when I went out there, I was pretty relaxed […].”