By his own admission, this golden run has had a lot to do with a change in mindset. Three months ago, during the Asia Cup in Bangladesh, Virat Kohli had discussed threadbare his T20 batting and credited the positive change to keeping things simple. He used to over-plan a bit during his early T20 life.
“My plan in my early T20 playing days was to get myself in for a few balls, maybe ten balls, and then score quickly. I used to think too much about T20 cricket. I used to think that maybe I don’t hit as many big shots as some of the other players, or that I don’t hit too many sixes. So I used to try to do a lot more, plan too much. Now I play on instinct. I have come to terms with the fact that I can’t hit too many sixes, so I concentrate on hitting boundaries. I have tried to mould my game to that, try to hit the ball in the gaps and get fours, rather than sixes, which is a higher risk shot,” he had said. How well has the new method worked!
On Saturday at Chinnaswamy, Kohli scored his third century in this IPL to take his tally to 677 runs (average 75.22) in 11 matches. He has scored these runs at a strike-rate of 148.14.
On Saturday, the Chinnaswamy crowd, and also rest of the cricket world, was entertained by the best batting of the summer yet, as Kohli and AB de Villiers put on 229 runs for the second wicket against Gujarat Lions – the biggest partnership in the history of T20s.
‘Ronaldo, Messi in same team’
“This is like Ronaldo and Messi on the same team!” tweeted Jos Buttler. But the most interesting aspect of that marauding association was perhaps the way Kohli changed gears.
His fifty came in 39 balls, in the 15th over, driving a fullish delivery from Pravin Tambe down to long-on. He didn’t mind playing second fiddle to de Villiers, who went on rampage.
The South African master galloped to his hundred in 43 balls. Kohli was unbeaten on 51 off 40 deliveries at the end of the over. Till then, he had three fours and a six to his credit. Another over went by and the skipper moved to 52 before he stepped on the gas. A four and a six off Dwayne Bravo were gorgeous – both classical cover drives, one along the carpet and the next one aerial.
De Villiers’s 360-degree cricket is tempting enough for any batsman to try a few innovations of his own. But Kohli’s range allows him to stick to convention. He decimated left-arm chinaman bowler Shivil Kaushik with a 30-run over. Four sixes and a four had been hit – all conventional cricket shots. “I wasn’t thinking about the hundred but then I saw the chinaman and AB asked me, ‘are you thinking what I’m thinking?’ I told him, no, just be quiet. I don’t want to hear it,” the skipper had a smile as he spoke during the innings break.
Century came with a straight six off Praveen Kumar. A sumptuous pull for another maximum followed. Kohli was eventually dismissed on 109 in 55 balls (5×4 8×6). He walked away with a strike-rate of 198.18, playing copybook cricket.
“I might hit more boundaries than sixes and still get the result. I am scoring at 160 still, so it doesn’t matter if I am hitting sixes or fours or doing it in singles and doubles. That’s the mindset I go in with in this format,” he had said back in February. Today, over-boundaries outnumbered fours.
Rewind to the Asia Cup, where matches had been played on Mirpur green-tops. Kohli finished with 153 runs from five matches (average 76.50) as India lifted the title. The 51-ball 49 against Mohammad Amir’s Pakistan was sublime.
Before that, in three T20 internationals in Australia, he had aggregated 199 runs at an average of 199.00 to secure a clean sweep. Cut to World T20, where he almost single-handedly took India to the semi-finals with 273 runs from five matches; averaging 136.50. His 82 not out off 51 balls in the win-or-bust group league fixture bordered on the supernatural. Kohli has scored 1,302 runs in 24 T20 matches (23 innings) this year. He is redefining the art of T20 batsmanship.