Memorable comeback for precocious Kohli

Found out against the short delivery, he lost his Test place in England, sitting out six matches before earning a recall for the Mumbai Test.

With scores of 52 and 63, the 22-year-old from Delhi made his comeback a memorable one. What was impressive wasn’t just the numbers, but the manner in which he batted in both innings under no little pressure. Having said that, Kohli will also have to understand, quickly, that it doesn’t pay to throw one’s hand away when well set, because the essence of a quality sportsman lies in the manner in which he makes a good thing count.

In the first innings, with India confronted with a massive first-innings total, Kohli walked into the second new ball and a barrage of short-pitched deliveries from Fidel Edwards and Ravi Rampaul. Admittedly, the pitch was on the slower side, but Kohli’s handling of the short ball was impeccable, without a touch of uncertainty or alarm.

“I was tagged as someone who can not play the short ball after West Indies, so when I went in, I knew they were going to throw short balls at me,” Kohli observed. “It is all about having a good mindset, I am more of a mindset player. Being in form is alright, but I need to be in the right frame of mind. I was pretty confident with what I wanted to do, had a blank mind before playing every ball -- that helped. It is all a mental toughness game out there, Test cricket.”

Kohli tided over the testing early phase, saw wickets tumble around him, then found an able ally in R Ashwin as he completed a maiden Test fifty. Immediately, he tonked leggie Devendra Bishoo to deep mid-on in a moment of madness.

“It was the perfect scenario for me to get a big score,” he conceded. “I did not get the elevation, I middled the ball but it went straight to fielder. Cricket is a game like that; if it had gone over the fielder, everyone would have been like he went against the turn and got a six. If it does not get executed, they say he could have waited.”

Kohli got a second hit in as many days on Saturday, once again in a pressure-cooker situation arising from a tense chase. Again, he batted quite beautifully, without any trace of nerves. He ticked off the ones and twos, showed exemplary patience, but was quick to put the bad ball away, taking India to the doorstep of victory with only the lower-order to follow. Then came a fatal slash-cut against Bishoo, the ball flying off the outer edge to short third man and stymieing India’s victory march.

“It is a learning phase for everyone, not only for Virat,” MS Dhoni pointed out. “You learn a lot from such games so that when he is in the same situation the next time, he may bat differently. Even the most experienced players tend to make these mistakes. If you learn from every game, you can improve as a cricketer.”

In his brief Test career, Kohli has already shown that he is a quick learner. For now at number six, he must call on his innate intelligence and maturity to adapt to conditions and situations, especially in Australia where there will be no easy runs on offer. In time to come, he will move up the order, because of all the replacements India have tried out in the post-Ganguly era, no one has inspired as much confidence and looked as if he belongs in the Test arena as Kohli.

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