Updated: February 19, 2014 1:14:05 pm
As nicks go, this one seemed pretty straightforward. Though, in umpire Steve Davis’ opinion the ball had touched nothing but thin air. And the only man who seemed to agree with him, at least by the looks of it, was Virat Kohli.
If there was any guilt, you couldn’t have made it out from his body language. His head only came up after he was sure that Davis hadn’t lifted his index-finger. He remained poker-faced.
It was a crucial reprieve as far as India were concerned. The series might have been lost but there was a Test match to be saved still. As far as Kohli was concerned, however, this was also his final chance to ensure that he didn’t leave New Zealand without a Test ton. Something that he’d done on his first visit to both Australia and SA.
By the time the two teams decided to shake hands and bring the series to an anticlimactic end, Kohli had pocketed another overseas century. He had also saved India the blushes of a whitewash. With his unbeaten 105, he had also achieved what few other Indians had before him— of recording a three-figure score in his first visit to three different countries outside the sub-continent. Kohli had in a way conquered the southern hemisphere.
His attractive rearguard effort in Wellington was also another illustration of why he’s spoken of in a different light than his peers. For, it’s always been this insatiable hunger for runs that has separated the really good batsmen from the record-breakers. While he might still be a long way off matching the likes of Sachin Tendulkar in terms of numbers, Kohli has already proved that match situations or conditions rarely come in the way of his craving for runs and tons. If anything, even the opposition attack is only incidental.
At Adelaide in 2012, India were already 3-0 down in the series when Kohli came to the fore. His ton at the Wanderers two months back came against a fired-up Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. Here, Tim Southee and Trent Boult had a fifth-day wicket with variable bounce to play with. But it was Kohli who lit up the final day with his stroke play. Of his 15 boundaries, five came off pull shots, each one demonstrating his fearlessness against short-pitched bowling. He also played a number of delectable drives down the wicket, especially a couple of on-driven ones to avoid the catcher placed in front of the non-striker on the off-side.
Kohli’s obsession with batting can even be discerned during practice sessions where he is easily the most difficult to dislodge from the nets. There was of course no way that Kohli was giving Davis any hints of having edged the ball at the Basin.
Bharat is a principal correspondent, based in Mumbai.
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