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There’s no backing off for Virat Kohli

India’s run-machine vows to take on the Aussies with his bat and words

By Shirin Sadikot in
“Before coming here I told myself I’m going to be positive against these bowlers in these conditions and look to dominate.”

If confidence was an entity with a face, it would look like Virat Kohli.

He is an Indian batsman with an Australian attitude. And that very attitude has brought him three centuries in the first three Tests of the series so far. The most recent and perhaps, the most memorable one, came in the first innings of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG – a knock of 169 that took India within 68 runs of Australia’s first innings total of 530.

This was Virat’s first 150-plus Test score. And he was aware he needed one soon. “I know I was criticised for not getting big hundreds,” he said after his sensational batting display.

“It’s disappointing to get out for 115, 120 when you’ve done all the hard work. So I told myself to just see it [the phase just after getting to 100] through, take the singles with the odd boundary,” Virat said. “Today I got a good feel of building up big hundreds.

“The next time if I’m in that situation, I would want to convert it into a double hundred.”

Most of Virat’s runs came in his alliance with another batsman who was aiming to have a big century against his name – Ajinkya Rahane (147). Together the two put on 262. When they came together, the plan was simple. Play without any inhibition. Play without fear. And that’s what they did. The partnership came at 4.53 rpo.

“Instinctively I was being positive from ball one, milestones were not the criteria,” Virat said. “We saw Ajinkya today. He came out and crossed me to a hundred and that was brilliant.

“At no point did I tell him to back off and not play his game, and that’s what’s working for us as a batting unit – that intent, that positivity, that thinking of taking on the bowler.”

Virat’s most entertaining duel was with Mitchell Johnson, with bat and ball as well as with words and stares. While there is no record for the words exchanged, the stats suggest Virat’s bat won the battle against Johnson’s ball. He scored 68 runs off the 73 balls he faced from Johnson. They included 11 fours.

Virat said backing out was no option. “He was going at 4.7 (runs) per over today and didn’t get a wicket throughout the day,” Virat said of Johnson. “I backed myself that I could take him on even if I keep talking to him.

“That’s important. You can’t back off after saying a few words and not show it with your skill. So I decided that whenever he comes on to bowl I was going to back myself and take him on.

“I don’t mind giving a word back and neither does he so it kept going on.”

Virat was glowing in his praise for Rahane. He especially enjoyed his partner’s enterprising approach against Johnson when the Aussie pacer unleashed a barrage of bouncers on them to start the last session. On one occasion Rahane slapped a Johnson bouncer over midwicket for a four. That was one of the three fours he hit in that over.

“At that point of time I was actually a bit surprised at the way Jinks (Rahane) went after him, clearing his leg, because he’s known to be a compact player and I didn’t know he was going to go after him in a very surprising way.

“But it was pleasing to watch him backing himself playing for the first time in Australia, taking a bowler on who’s looking to get into him and who bowls long spells, bowls quick, bowls good bouncers,” Virat said of his batting partner.

Virat also credited Rahane for helping him get out of a difficult phase in his innings when run-scoring was not too fluent for him.

“I was confident of my batting that I could go through that phase. Jinks helped from the other end as well, to be honest. He kept taking (Johnson) on and didn’t let him settle into a rhythm which was very important for us with the second new ball.

“That’s how you play Test cricket, that where your partner helps you and vice versa.

“If he’s in a spot of bother I keep taking on the bowling, so it was good to bat out there with Jinks today.”