Kohli offers a bright ray of hope

Kohli offers a bright ray of hope

How many would have hoped India could draw the first Test going into the final day’s play? Perhaps not many. How many would have really thought India could win chasing 364 from a minimum of 98 overs on a deteriorating pitch? Mostly none.

Virat Kohli, however, believed India could actually pull off an improbable win and he almost delivered one.
The odds were heavily stacked up against India -- the ball was turning square, Mitchell Johnson was looking increasingly menacing and their own immediate past of crumbling at the first hint of pressure was all too fresh in the minds of the players. The easy way for Kohli or his team-mates would have been to go for a draw.

If they had lost the match then there wouldn’t have been many brickbats because the result would have been on expected lines. But instead of choosing the safe way, the stand-in skipper took the challenge head-on. India eventually suffered a 48-run defeat for their sixth loss in last 10 Tests played abroad, but this time they weren’t disgraced.

Frankly, if India had tried to save the match, they may not have lasted even two sessions on that pitch. In the two innings, seven top-order Indian batsmen got out while trying to defend Nathan Lyon who exploited the roughs on the surface quite beautifully.
With the exception of Kohli, batting in a different zone altogether, all other batsmen found the going tough whenever Lyon landed the ball on those black patches formed around the crease. Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara were batting on half-centuries in the first innings while Murali Vijay was one run shy of a century in the second when they all fell to Lyon.   

Playing to save the match, thus, was not an option. There was a phase in the final session when India could have thought of shutting the shop after the dismissals of Vijay, Rahane and Rohit in quick succession but even then a draw was less of a possibility than a win.

There were still a minimum of 20.2 overs left to be bowled when the last recognised batsman Wriddhiman Saha arrived at the crease. In two overs the new ball was due and even if Australia were not going to opt for one, Lyon was sending down at least three unplayable deliveries an over. Saha was caught between a hard rock and a hard place.

One of his options was to hit out of trouble and release some of the pressure. He followed the same method but the Bengal batsman played one shot too many against Lyon to lose his woodwork. Saha had already struck Lyon for a six and a four and he could’ve just blocked the last ball of the 80th over and gone to the other side.

Yes, Kohli did admit he encouraged his batsmen got for their strokes if they felt so but that doesn’t mean he would have instructed them to hit every ball they faced out of the park. Kohli also didn’t discourage Rohit from sweeping but the Mumbai batsman, who was once rated much higher than Kohli and has two double centuries in ODIs, surely must be having other strokes in his repertoire?  
Be that as it may, one got to experience the ebb and flow of a hard-fought Test cricket because both teams wanted to win. “The one thing I'm most proud of is we didn't shy away from trying to win the game,” pointed out Michael Clarke. “We continued to attack, to try to take wickets, and that's the brand of cricket I love seeing Australia play.

There’s always a risk of losing, in this game someone will win and someone will lose and I think if you accept that, you give yourself every chance of playing games of cricket like we've just seen. It was great entertainment for the crowd. I think both sides thought they had a chance to win and fortunately for us today, things went our way,” he offered.

Kohli’s thought process isn’t too different. He is aggressive, he loves a fight, he likes to be in the thick of action and his attitude is perhaps more Australian than Indian. And perhaps that’s the reason, Australian cricketers, past and present, admire him.
“I always believed that I could do it with along with the tail as well,” Kohli said. “I backed myself in the first innings as well. Did not regret the kind of shot I played. It’s all about how you look at things. There is enough reason to regret things, but at the same time you have to look at the positives. I look at every outing as an opportunity to do something special for the team.”

Kohli will get many more opportunities in future to complete his unfinished business because he is willing to take the risk because he is unafraid to lose.

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