Even before he sat down for the media interaction, MS Dhoni started raving about Virat Kohli. “Australia ko Virat ke naam pe ek stand bana dena chahiye,” he said. (Australia should name a stand after Virat).
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The captain wasn’t far off the mark. It’s indeed difficult to come up with any criticism of Kohli on this tour, but a harsh critic could perhaps come up with one point. While Virat has been piling up the runs in nearly every game, he hadn’t shown that he could jump to that 5th gear. Most of his knocks have come at a breezy speed but he hasn’t shown real violence to escalate the run-rate to dizzying heights. Until Adelaide that is.
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He had reached 26 from 22 deliveries but racked up 64 runs in the next 33 balls. Even the Australian public, who love their domestic T20 league Big Bash and for which they had turned up for in more numbers than during the World Cup, must have been enthralled by the violence he showed. No player in recent times has treated Australian bowlers with as much disdain as Kohli. No Indian batsman certainly looked as assured as Kohli. Not even Rohit Sharma.
He got the biggest compliment he could from Dhoni, the man who knows about shifting gears. Dhoni said that Kohli knows when to take risks and when to accelerate his innings. Like a jockey, he knows when to push hard on his horse and when he has to maintain a decent pace along others to be in the race. His lethal approach and that malleable wrist allowed him to score beyond the traditional ‘V’ area.
“I think in Adelaide they’ll be naming a stand after him, (considering) the amount of runs he’s scoring. By the time he ends his career, quite a few Australian grounds will have his stands,” Dhoni said on Kohli. His scores reads 90 (not out in this game), 8, 106, 117, 59 and 91. Last time when he was in Adelaide for the Test series in 2014, he had scored two tons (115 & 141).
Dhoni continued with his rave. “The important thing is, when he is taking the risk of playing a big shot, he calculates it well. It’s easy to play a big shot, everyone can play it. But it’s how you calculate where your strengths are and take risks according to that, there are more chances of being successful,” Dhoni said.
That ability was seen in this game. India had lost their openers after a quick start to comeback man Shane Watson when Kohli was joined by Suresh Raina. Unsurprisingly, the Australians tried to target Raina with the bounce and once, Shaun Tait, another comeback man, got a short delivery kicking up, but Raina managed to just about evade Aaron Finch at short fine-leg. The pair punctuated the cautious approach to Watson with couple of fours off Tait and Raina even slugged Boyce for a six and the runs kept coming at a steady rhythm.
India began to push on in the final seven overs after reaching 106 for 2 in 13. Kohli flayed two wide deliveries from Kane Richardson to the point boundary and charged Watson for two back-to-back fours in the next over. Kohli’s aggression allowed Raina to settle down as after all he had been in Adelaide for just two days before the game and had just one net session. Both ran hard, often testing Australians’ arms by pushing for the second run. Raina went at run-a-ball for the major part of his innings, reaching 26 from 27, but despite that India maintained a run rate of 8.70.
Soon, Raina joined in the fun, slamming Faulkner for a six over deep square-leg before he was bowled by the same bowler when he failed to connect with an intended slice. Dhoni didn’t waste any time to flex his muscles as he heaved Faulkner for a six and a four in the final over to push India to a strong total that proved more than enough as Australia were bundled out for 151 runs. An overjoyed Kohli was seen giving a send-off to Steve Smith in the chase. India had stamped their presence on Australia’s day.