Focus the key as Kohli takes a big stride forward

Focus the key as Kohli takes a big stride forward

In the recent past, no other story has been better documented than the evolution of Virat Kohli – as a cricketer and as an individual. But there was one person who needed more evidences to believe that he belonged at the top level – Kohli himself.

He had his own reasons for that. A fifty against the West Indies at Mumbai in November last year had earned him a ticket to Australia, but four successive failures at Melbourne and Sydney put him under a situation that he calls “not sure what I wanted to do.” That Kohli was vastly different from the supremely confident Kohli, who was on display at the Bellerive Oval on Tuesday while smashing an incredible unbeaten 133.

The 23-year-old had to overcome some psychological barriers on this Down Under trip to make that transition happen. There is no scarier condition for a young player than the feeling of him not being able to deliver up to his potential. Kohli found himself in that situation after the first two Tests against Australia, and the calls to oust him had only added to that state of imbalance.

Then came Perth. It was a venue tipped as the ‘Green Monster’, and the third Test indeed ended in just over seven sessions. But Kohli played out of his skin to register 44 and 75. Irrelevant those numbers might appear when the team had lost by an innings and 37 runs.

But for Kohli those two innings offered the clues that he had been searching for. Kohli admitted it. “The turnaround…it didn’t come in Adelaide (when he made his maiden Test hundred), but for me it came in Perth.”

It came at the cost of a certain self-cocooning. “In Perth I’d told a lot of people that I was thinking too much about the things going outside the field, what is being written or said. Before the Perth Test, I stopped watching news or reading any sort of articles, and told myself every day that I am good enough.

“I had scored runs at the international level and there is no good reason if I have a game plan and if I think positive and if I have strong mental preparation there is no good reason why I cannot score runs at the top level consistently. It was the key to start believing in myself,” Kohli said.

The newfound belief did reflect in the subsequent tri-series, though he threw away the starts on a couple of matches. Here Kohli has been extremely fortunate to have a player like Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the dressing room. In contemporary cricket, few other batsmen know the science of batting in one-day cricket better than the Indian skipper.

A detailed chat with Dhoni helped Kohli to realise the value of sticking around and attaching a high price to his wicket. The talk also drove in the Delhiite keynote of batting in 50-over cricket – staying till the end to finish the job even if it means looking a bit ugly in the middle.

Kohli certainly didn’t look ugly at the Blundstone Arena, but following Dhoni’s mantra – stick around and don’t just throw the starts away – worked well for him. There then was Kohli at the end of it all, a famous Indian win that he brought fittingly with a boundary off Lasith Malinga, a bowler he mercilessly butchered on a remarkable Hobart night.

The 35th over of Indian innings saw Kohli carting Malinga, the best death-over bowler in the world, for 24 runs (2, 6, 4, 4, 4, 4). Let’s hear how Kohli’s dismantled the Slinger. “I knew that Lasith will be going for yorkers because he needs wickets, and if he doesn’t execute them, I have enough on hand. I stayed very calm at that point of time and I didn’t over excite myself. It’s the key if you want to hit some big shots.”

Ah! So simple!

Kohli’s words were also a loud announcement to the world that he has scant regard for reputations, conditions and pressure.

So, welcome India’s new all weather man.

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