India's shock-absorber

Kohli underlined his maturity with a century against the Aussies
Last Updated 21 October 2010, 17:15 IST

It has become a sort of habit for the Delhi batsman to notch up tons while chasing. He first showed signs of soaking in the pressure when he put paid to Sri Lanka’s aspirations of a win in Kolkata in December last.

Having prised out Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar for 23 after posting 315, Lanka were threatening to run through the Indian batting, but Kohli stood in their way along with his city-mate Gautam Gambhir.

Kohli’s 107 may pale in comparison to Gambhir’s 150, but then it’s like comparing Rahul Dravid’s 180 with VVS Laxman’s epochal 281 against Australia at the same venue. One couldn’t have been achieved without the other.

If one thought it was just a flash in the pan, the 21-year-old repeated the feat against Bangladesh early this year when his unbeaten 102 helped India overhaul Bangladesh’s 245 in a tri-series rather easily. Before anyone sniggers because the knock came against the minnows, let’s look at his effort against Australia on Wednesday night here.

Down 35 for two and chasing 289, not many would have fancied India’s chances but Kohli had other ideas. Battling a muscle pull in his left leg, the right-hander stroked his way to 118 that shut the Aussies out of the contest. Much like Michael Clarke’s measured 111 earlier, Kohli’s too was a calculated innings.

Coming here after a string of low scores in the two Lankan series – he didn’t have a single fifty in the last seven innings – Kohli was under pressure to perform and the match-winning effort would have done a world of good to his confidence.

“Honestly, I was struggling early on because I hadn’t scored much in the last six-seven matches so I was under a bit of pressure,” he made a candid admission. “If you are chasing under pressure and the target is huge and if you make a big score it gives you a really good feeling and lot of confidence,” he added.

For reasons best known to men who matter, Rohit Sharma has been their choice for the floating middle-order slot, but it is Kohli who has been doing better than any other reserve batsman in the last one year or so. If his one-day average of over 44 from 35 matches doesn’t convince the selectors, then nothing else will.

With India looking for a batsman or two for the World Cup, Kohli has fired the first salvo with Wednesday’s gutsy century. The youngster, however, refused to get carried away by his latest performance.

“There are 3-4 guys fighting for one spot in the team but that is a good thing because it shows our bench strength is strong. It also improves your performance and eagerness to score runs because you want to perform well. I don’t believe that my place has been cemented in the team. I have to keep performing consistently in the matches to come and maybe later in the future I can think if my place is permanent or not,” he reasoned.

There has never been a doubt about Kohli’s talent, but at times he has let himself down and not entirely for cricketing reasons. He has, however, learnt his lessons, has admitted his mistakes and has made a conscious effort to not to allow extraneous issues affect his game.

“I have tried to learn from my mistakes and capitalise on the opportunities that have I got. You tend to fail sometimes as well but it is a part of you going ahead as an international cricketer. You got to prepare yourself really well to give yourself the best chance to perform out there. You can do that because that is in your hands and I have been trying to do that,” he elaborated.

(Published 21 October 2010, 17:15 IST)

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