Virat Kohli is back in business
While some of his more accomplished batting colleagues were struggling to put bat on ball in Australia early this year, Virat Kohli was the lone Indian to return from the tough tour with a Test century to his name.
With a 116-run knock in Adelaide – his maiden Test hundred – Virat became a serious Test prospect from a limited-overs match-winner. Within a year of that effort, the 24-year-old has added yet another gem to what might turn into a glittering Test career a few years from now.
With the series on the line, India were reeling at 71/4 in reply to England’s first innings score of 330, when Virat joined hands with skipper MS Dhoni. Together they batted out 84.3 overs and put up 198 runs. And Virat was reunited with his form that had left him for just a brief while after serving him loyally for the last couple of years.
He scored his third Test century, and one that he’d be particularly proud of. With the team’s back against the wall in a must-win contest, Virat dusted off the rest of the world from his mind and began a dogged journey of crease occupation with his captain.
“We just looked to play over-by-over and tried to stretch the game as far as possible,” Virat said of their simple game plan. “We didn’t think about how many runs we need to get after one session or set any target for the day. It was just about playing six balls at a time and concentrating for long hours,” he said.
What made this partnership even more commendable was the way the two attacking batsmen curbed their instincts and put their heads down for their team’s sake. Virat draws confidence from the fact that he could stand up to the challenge and overcome it.
“This century is very pleasing for me because of the way I played. I didn’t think about the runs or the number of balls that I was playing. I was just batting. It was a learning curve for me and I’m glad that I was able to score a century.
“Also, it’s very rare that two new batsmen come together and string a big partnership. It’s mostly a new batsman joining a set one and the two taking it from there. This was a different situation for me and I love these challenging situations because I get to learn a lot from them,” he said.
In the earlier innings of the series, Virat looked like a restless youngster, over-keen to score quick runs and in turn, losing his wicket playing unwarranted shots. His habit of converting starts into substantial scores seemed to have deserted him. Virat cited ‘too much desperation’ as the reason for his low scores in the first three Tests.
“Against New Zealand I was able to convert the starts into big scores,” he said while referring to his second Test century, in Bangalore. “In this series, personally I was very eager to do well and probably got a little too desperate to score runs, which is not a very good thing for a batsman.
“You need to be hungry but you can’t be too desperate and start putting pressure on yourself. It feels good to get this hundred and be back in the frame of mind that I’ve been throughout the year,” Virat said.
As someone who takes his game and preparation very seriously, Virat introspected and tried to find out where he is going wrong in this series. And what did he discover?
“There was nothing in particular. Mentally I was feeling really good and thought I was hitting the ball well. I probably got a good ball in the first innings at Ahmedabad and after that I made a few mistakes as well.
“I analysed all my three innings in which I got 20s and found that the first ball I missed, I either edged it or got bowled. Sometimes, you need that luck when you get beaten a few times and [get a few chances].
“I was just waiting for that one innings, which came today, and wasn’t doubting myself at all. I wasn’t thinking about what people said about my abilities. It’s important to have the same kind of mindset where you’re doing well or not, and that’s one thing I did. Today’s was the innings that I was waiting for,” he said.
While Virat achieved a three-digit score in a Test innings for the third time, Dhoni fell agonisingly short of his sixth Test century. In a bid to run the 100th run, Dhoni ran himself out by an inch. Virat rued the fact that Dhoni missed the milestone after putting in all the hard work.
“It was disappointing to see his wicket because he worked hard the whole day. It’s a very impressive thing for an attacking player like him to fight it out the whole day and play close to 250 balls. After all that, we were sad to see him getting run-out on 99,” Virat said.
Dhoni’s wicket meant that India ended Day 3 at 297/8 – still 33 runs adrift of England’s first innings total. Virat firmly believes that even slightest of leads could be handy on a wicket that has started to crack.
“It’s a kind of wicket on which you have to show patience, apply yourself the whole time and cannot relax one bit. The track hasn’t changed much, but I think the cracks are opening up slowly and you might see a completely different wicket tomorrow. The spinners might come into play more.
“It will not be easy to bat on this track in the last innings,” Virat warned.