January 15, 2024

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India vs Afghanistan: Virat Kohli’s cameo in Indore signals an intent to not play the waiting game | Cricket News

3 min read

The scorecard will show 29 off 16 balls, hardly much for a player of Virat Kohli’s pedigree, but how he batted and got out seemed to suggest he was willing to go against his nature to fit into the new brand of T20 batting that India is trying to embrace.

Kohli, even in the shortest international format, is known more as an accumulator at the start of his innings, before he showcases his rich repertoire of strokes and going into overdrive as the innings reaches its climax. When he first comes in, the most characteristic feature of his batting is his speed between the wickets that keeps the scoreboard moving and gets him into the rhythm of the game.

On Sunday, in his first T20I since the 10-wicket semifinal loss to England at the 2022 World Cup in Adelaide, Kohli wasn’t going to play the waiting game. He was in the middle in the first over itself, replacing Rohit Sharma, and was back before the Powerplay got over. But the former captain, for once, wasn’t playing the situation or the target but trying to prove that there were more gears to his batting which can be activated even early on in a race.

The first ball Kohli faced, from left-armer Fazalhaq Farooqi, was driven firmly to mid-on. The second, from mystery spinner Mujeeb ur Rahman, was a length ball outside off, which was lofted over mid-off for a boundary. No need for the niceties of having a look or rotating strike. The last ball of the same over was met by an uncharacteristic slog-sweep wide of long-on. That it was a full ball well outside off-stump indicated that the shot might well have been a premeditated one.

Whenever Kohli’s prowess in the T20 format is discussed, the straight six he hit off a hard-length ball from Pakistan speedster Haris Rauf during the World Cup game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground comes up. Now, Naveen-ul-Haq is no Rauf, but there’s history between him and Kohli, and the latter rekindled memories with a flat-bat shot over the bowler’s head off a much wider ball that landed just inside the boundary.

Festive offer

There were a few ungainly hoicks and aerial shots that one doesn’t associate with the batting technician that Kohli is, but it reflected the message he was trying to send about his utility in the format.

Mujeeb was handsomely cover-driven to the fence, bisecting the off-side ring, when the bowler offered width on a full ball. There was not much of asking-rate pressure at this moment, when Kohli set his sights on Naveen again. The medium pacer was slog-swept across the line, as if he was a spinner, to the long-on boundary. The next ball, Kohli tried to clear mid-off but failed.

All this while, Yashasvi Jaiswal was going full throttle at the other end, and Kohli seemed intent on showing that he could keep pace. Much talk about the return of Kohli and Rohit to the T20 fold surrounds their strike rates, but he seems determined to prove there are more strings to his bow.

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