At the Feroz Shah Kotla on Wednesday, it was very easy to forget the presence of Virat Kohli. A day before, Virender Sehwag got a gate in his name and the match day saw the ends being named after Ashish Nehra, who was playing his last international game. To take the spotlight further away from the Indian skipper, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan gave the team a dream start and dispatched the New Zealand bowlers to all parts of the park.
Openers Dhawan and Rohit ate most of the overs and it meant India promoted Hardik Pandya to accumulate more runs in the final few. The plan, however, didn’t work and the all-rounder fell for a duck. And Kotla heard “Kohli, Kohli” chants for the first time as the skipper walked out to bat. On the numbers front, this hasn’t been a good venue for Kohli and only 3.1 overs left meant he didn’t get enough deliveries to improve the numbers.
Not many overs left, Kohli did what he does best – make an immediate impact. The right-hander collected a single off the first delivery and smoked the second one to the third-tier of Ashish Nehra end. It was the kind of shot that left everyone in the press box amazed and one could do nothing but remain in awe of the super natural abilities he seems to possess.
Another good win and a complete team performance. 👌🏼😇
Wishing Ashish bhaiya all the luck for everything in the future. It’s been an honor sharing the field and the dressing room with you. 🙏👏 @BCCI #INDvNZ #NehraJi pic.twitter.com/hfCTHfo8rP
— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) 1 November 2017
While he picked the slower one early for his first six, the next two were audacious as he just managed to get underneath the short delivery and generated insane amount of power to clear the ropes with ease. There wasn’t a big swing of the arms but just well timed connection with the sudden explosion of power. 26 runs off 11 balls, including three towering sixes, certainly entertained the Feroz Shah Kotla as the “dhol” was heard the loudest when ‘Delhi’s favourite son’ played his song in the first half of the game.
The second innings was meant to be all about Nehra. The seamer was just four overs away from ending a 19-year-old career. And Kohli, who grew up watching Nehra play for Delhi and India, was in the mood to ensure a fitting farewell. The skipper bowled him twice in the Powerplay, once in the middle overs and kept him for bowling the last over of the match.
Over the years, Kohli has emerged as a major crowd lifter. When he’s fielding in the deep, he keeps pushing them to make more noise and doesn’t mind the wave and wink to keep the spectators engaged. Repeatedly he has talked about the kind of role crowd and support from the stand does to the spirits of the players in the middle.
Every time he would chase the ball near the ropes and keep it in play, he would get a loud cheer. A throw would leave the thousands amazed and the direct-hits would produce rapturous responses. Wednesday was a bit different on this front. All this happened but the lungs were reserved for “Nehra Ji”.
Even after the game ended and Nehra took a lap of Kotla, Kohli kept playing with the crowd and ensured that his senior teammate got the rousing reception he deserved after serving the nation for close to two decades.
The first T20I build up started with Sehwag, moved to Nehra then to Dhawan-Rohit but Kohli remained in the scheme of things. It’s too difficult to ignore a personality like him, overflowing with energy, on the cricket field. Ask the Aussies if you don’t believe!