Virat Kohli walks in at No. 3 with his country’s hopes on his shoulders. The Indian vice-captain has steered India’s ship in two of the four matches so far in the tournament. However, all those runs have come while chasing.
Now, India’s best batsman needs to churn out runs on a batting beauty while batting first. He makes a scratchy start, scores three runs off his first five balls and survives two run outs off one ball – a free-hit no less. Sixth ball, edged to third man for a four. Kohli is pumped, he clenches his fists, lets out a war cry and shows Dwayne Bravo how he felt about those four runs. That’s the closest he gets to being dismissed, he ends with an unbeaten 89 runs in that game.
Cut to Tuesday (April 12). M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore where Royal Challengers Bangalore are taking on Sunrisers Hyderbad in their opening match of the Indian Premier League. Kohli has settled down with AB de Villiers and is now propelling the team towards a big target. The RCB captain is at the top of his game and is scoring freely and in a risk-free manner.
In the 14th over, Kohli edges one to third man for a boundary and straight away puts up an apologetic hand towards Moises Henriques, the bowler. Kohli had carted him for a huge six off the previous delivery and he’s in such supreme command that he doesn’t want to score streaky runs. He wants to earn them with proper shots.
As the Kohli-de Villiers stand took charge, the partisan crowd was reminded of the 215 runs they had put last year in Wankhede against Mumbai Indians. One of the things that stood out then was Kohli’s ability to play second fiddle to de Villiers, who ended unbeaten on a 59-ball 133. Kohli contributed an unbeaten 82.
Against Hyderabad, it was uncanny how Kohli wanted to compete with de Villiers. He wasn’t keen on being left left too far behind. The duo matched each other shot for shot and pushed the team’s score to 227 for 4.
The Bangalore captain wanted to entertain. The Bangalore captain wanted to pull the attention towards him even when de Villiers looked his sublime best. The partnership wasn’t just entertaining for the fans but it was morale boosting for the teammates as well.
“To witness that batting was just incredible,” said Shane Watson after the game. “The control that both of them had, Virat took a while to get his innings really going. He played some great shots but once he gets going and gets a couple of boundaries, the array of shots he can play, it’s a privilege to be able to watch it.
“The quality of batting is as good as you’ll ever see. At one stage, I was thinking I wasn’t going to bat and I was happy with that because we were going to get 230-240.”
Ahead of the game, Kohli had reiterated how he wants to keep contributing to help RCB’s chances. “I have always wanted to perform consistently although it doesn’t happen all the time,” he had said. “After a stage in your career, you set standards for yourself and you need to live up to them. If you start getting swayed by the expectations people have of you, it just takes you off your game plans and you can easily get swayed by the adulation and praise that you get. It is important to appreciate those things but at the end of the day, it is very important to remember what got you there and not get carried away by what’s going on around you.
“My mindset has always been to go out there on the field and give 120% for any team that I play for – same kind of intensity. I guess I have been striking the ball well, I have been playing well in the past few months. I would like to continue the same and help Bangalore go as far as we can in this tournament. You can’t guarantee anything and you can’t put a finger to anything, what’s going to happen now, but surely I would like to contribute to Bangalore’s success.”
Kohli did his bit in the first game – the first step towards ensuring RCB wins the elusive IPL title. AB de Villiers could be the team’s most dynamic batsman, Chris Gayle the most destructive; but if Kohli continues his red hot streak, he will sit atop the perch as IPL’s most effective batsman.