Simon Crompton, 51, has been manning the Adelaide Oval’s more than 100-year-old scoreboard for more than three decades now. He has several stories about the venue, one of them has Virat Kohli in it.
Early 2011, days after India and Australia had played the final Test of the series where Kohli scored a hundred, Oval hosted a Sheffield Shield game between South Australia and a Michael Clarke-led New South Wales. Now, over to Crompton: ‘I was stripping Indian names off the scoreboard preparing for the new game. The NSW players had finished training and were hanging around. On the grass bank there was this plank that said ‘Kohli’ and it got the players started. They stamped it by their feet till it got dented. Some even poured beer on it. There were laughs around but I knew they didn’t like him.’
There are many who don’t like Kohli. Not that he cares, for there are many who love him. Every day, since October 2, when he reached 4 million on twitter, he gets 11,000 plus followers. Today at the Oval, had someone dared to stamp on anything with Kohli written on it, cops in Adelaide would have been dealing with assault, murder and arson. In the game that mattered so much to so many, Kohli scored many. 107 from 126 balls, one-third of India’s total of 300, a target that proved too imposing for Pakistan to chase under lights, and under pressure.
It was timely return of form for Kohli, who after 4 Test centuries in the series against Australia had 4 single-digit scores in the tri-series that followed. Come the World Cup, the big match, fans chanting and PM Tweeting, it was time for Kohli to rise.
Its knocks like these that make selectors give you a long rope during your slump and fans believe in you even when experts question your technique or attitude. A World Cup hundred against Pakistan gets you free lunches for the rest of your life, but more importantly, it gives you a reputation. It’s like breaking a world record at Olympics or scoring a hat-trick at the FIFA World Cup. It means you are blessed with a rare trait – you don’t let pressure affect your skills or poise.
Kohli once again showed he had the ‘right stuff’. First, Kohli didn’t let the trauma of the Shikhar Dhawan run out affect him. Later, while the entire stadium had held its breath after Shahid Afridi had hit one skywards, Kohli didn’t let the roar from the stands make his pulse race. He ran back, cupped his hands and let the ball settle in comfortably.
He also played a very calculated knock. Kohli today knew when to sprint or to stroll, when to defend or attack, when to be respectful, when to be dismissive. His first boundary came on the 18th ball he faced. When facing pacers with reputation, Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz, he was cautious. He was waiting for a weakling. When he had scored 34 from 49 balls, he spotted one in Pakistan’s new leggie Yasir Shah. Kohli would join Dhawan in milking the bowler playing his first India-Pakistan game. Later in the Powerplay, with Irfan and Wahab bowling the 30th to 35th overs, Kohli and Suresh Raina could manage just 25 runs. They didn’t panic. They trusted their plan and instincts. In the next 5 overs, the two would score at 9.2 runs per over.
Kohli would get out driving a harmless ball pitched outside his off-stump in 45.2 overs. This was to be his slowest ODI hundred but even that was seen as a virtue, a new badge on his chest. He was now seen as the mentor, the sheet anchor or as Rameez Raja said while presenting him the Man of the Match Award that he was ‘the new Sachin Tendulkar’.
After being Tendulkar for most part of the game, in the final stages of the game when Misbah-ul-Haq was fighting a losing cause, Kohli became Kohli. He and the highly-aggressive pacer Sohail Khan, known as Sohail Pathan on the Pakistan circuit, exchanged some angry words. The two have a past. There is this delightfully funny youtube video of the angry Pathan before Pakistan’s departure from home. The anchor asks him about bowling to Kohli and gets a dismissive answer. ‘Kohli, vohli honge aapna ghar ka,’ he says with a shrug. There are many who don’t like Kohli. Not that he cares, for there are many who love him.
After enduring a painful three months Down Under, India finally managed their first win in a competitive match. Virat Kohli’s ton aside, here are the four other reasons that made India look a different outfit on Sunday.
1. Shikar Dhawan
Enforcer is back
Dhawan’s the enforcer in the Indian batting line-up, but his poor form and apparent inability to come to grips with Australian wickets had been India’s biggest bugbear going into the World Cup. Here, he not only looked competent to handle the full ball for a change —even if Pakistan didn’t bowl enough on that length — he also showed the composure to steer India in the early going against the new balls before stepping on the accelerator. From there he handed India the momentum and a solid base to post a winning total. He also hit Yasir Shah, the much-touted leggie, out of the attack to put a spanner in the Pakistani wheels.
2. Suresh Raina
MS Dhoni had lamented about his insecurity regarding the middle-order during the warm-up games. Often, on foreign soil, they had failed to capitalize on platforms laid out by the top three. And the much-ridiculed Suresh Raina had been out of sorts. Here he walked in at No.4 ahead of the prolific Ajinkya Rahane and got going from the get-go. Raina allowed Kohli to set anchor for a long haul by taking the pressure of burgeoning the run-rate on himself. He ran hard, hit the ball harder and made the most of the short square boundaries at the Adelaide Oval. His 56-ball 74 was in many ways the game-changer.
3. The fielding
At its Sharpest
The bowlers will have to thank fielders for making them look better than they actually were. Barring one missed run-out opportunity by Dhoni, the Indians were impressive in the field. It was in fact Ravindra Jadeja’s quick reflexes at point that brought India back into the match. Suresh Raina, meanwhile, showed why he’s India’s safest slip fielder, pouching two sharp chances. Overall they looked incisive inside the circle, which did not allow Pakistan to rotate the strike as they would’ve wished. In contrast, Kohli was dropped twice during his innings, which was reminiscent of Sachin Tendulkar’s semi-final knock four years ago.
4. Pace attack
Hunting in a pack
They still do not look menacing enough, but Dhoni managed to eke out strong spells out of Umesh Yadav, Mohit Sharma and Mohammad Shami. Yadav’s twin strike in the middle overs, when he scalped Ahmed Shehzad and Sohaib Maqsood in the space of three balls, was eventually the turning point of the match. But his waywardness will continue to remain a concern for the skipper. Pick of the lot, however, was Mohammed Shami, who stifled the Pakistani batsmen by hitting the right lines and lengths on the flat Adelaide wicket. Shami was well complimented by Sharma, who also showed that his deceptive change of pace could be crucial in the death come the more close encounters.
By: Bharat Sundaresan & Mihir Vasavda