Virat Kohli shakes off decade-long baggage with sizzling T20I rebirth | Cricket

The Virat Kohli who scored 50 off 40 balls against England in the T20 World Cup semifinal and the one that turned up last night at the Holkar Stadium were two different batters. The Kohli of Adelaide is long gone. Terms such as accumulator and anchor, which have weighed him down in the past, no longer exist in Kohli’s dictionary. Slow against spin, you say? Nuh uh. Not anymore. Look at what he did to Mujeeb-ur-Rahman on Sunday night. An inside-out chip followed by a slog sweep. He scored 18 runs off seven balls at a strike rate of over 250. The stage was set. Early wicket lost. India in a chase and its master in. Kohli was expected to do Kohli things. Get a look, play himself in.

Anchor, who? Virat Kohli was in a different mood last night in Indore(BCCI)

WRONG! Indore brought out something different. Kohli played 16 balls, smacked 29 at a strike-rate of 181 and got out. How is this the same guy who crawled his way to a half-century in his last T20I match 14 months ago? Well, the same way he lifted himself from the abyss in 2022. He is Kohli after all, whom the legendary Clive Lloyd only two days ago, backed to ‘achieve everything he wants to’. And the manner in which he entertained the crowd last night, his message is clear. He is coming for that T20 World Cup trophy in five months’ time, and there is nothing that can stop him.

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Kohli’s cameo… as what many are calling it, isn’t a surprise. It was a long time coming. Will Kohli play the same way if India are, let’s say 12/3, in a tricky chase? Certainly not. But which cricketer in a sane mind would? What is the one thing Kohli has always been expected to do when he’s in at one down? Tee off. Show intent. Get going. No more playing the waiting game. He did all that… and then some more with India chasing 173. Was he rough around the edges? A tad. But if it doesn’t matter to Kohli himself, it shouldn’t concern anyone else.

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Kohli’s knock was a trip down memory lane for so many reasons. He was playing against a team jerseying in blue. He was up against Naveen-ul-Haq. So what if the two buried the hatchet during the World Cup? Knowing Kohli, he may move on, but doesn’t forget easily. The second ball he faces, Kohli executes a near-repeat of the Haris Rauf six. Only this time, the ball lands inches before the boundary cushions. The commentary called it a ‘Kohli special’ but the grimace on Virat’s face stated otherwise. He wasn’t happy, which in turn was a reason for his fans to be happy. Kohli, at 35, with 50 ODI centuries and the greatest batter of this generation is still hungry. He wasn’t holding back. He was letting them rip and even then, most of the balls found the middle of Kohli’s bat. For someone who doesn’t believe in playing the unconventional game, Kohli, never for once during his brief stay, looked ugly.

Kohli’s T20I resurgence began during IPL 2023

Kohli’s renaissance in T20s wasn’t an overnight process. In fact, it dates back to the IPL 2023, where Kohli racked up 639 runs at an average of 53.25, strike-rate of 139.82 – his second-best season – and finished with two hundreds on the trot. His 100 not out off 63 balls (strike-rate 158.73) against Sunrisers Hyderabad in their den stands out as one of his classiest IPL centuries of all time. Kohli had shown a similar intensity back then as well, not giving a damn about how he looked as he connected those extravagant hoicks. Kohli took the same confidence ahead and set the World Cup on fire, and looked like a million bucks in the South Africa Tests where he struck an authoritative 76 and 46. He wasn’t India’s top scorer in either of those innings, but definitely the most in-control batter of them all despite a KL Rahul century in Centurion.

Witnessing Kohli’s eagerness could qualify for another chapter in his never-ending comparison to Sachin Tendulkar. In 2007, Tendulkar found himself in pretty much a similar spot. In 2006, he had gone into a shell batting at No. 4, and his spiralling form stretched till India’s 2007 World Cup ouster. But between March 23 and June 23, something clicked inside the great man. When India took on Ireland and South Africa in a three-nation Future Cup, Tendulkar went back to the old ways. He was hooking Makhaya Ntini on a surface that had reasonable bounce and carried it forward for the next four years, a period that saw Tendulkar achieve incredible things for a batter his age. At 36, Tendulkar became the first man to score an ODI double hundred, and at 37, hit his maiden IPL century.

Kohli’s career could be undergoing the same trajectory.

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