Kohli relishing pressure

Kohli relishing pressure

Star batsman proved his class again with a superb 55 against Pak

Kohli relishing pressure

 At the moment, it appears that there are two World T20s being played out simultaneously — one involving India’s matches and the other involving the rest.

The other day, England found their total of 182/6 too inadequate against a Chris Gayle-inspired West Indies. Two days later it was South Africa’s turn to feel the same. England chased down Proteas’ mammoth 229/4 on the back of some brilliant batsmanship. On the other hand, India have been involved two low-scoring matches.

The home team suffered a crushing 47-run loss against New Zealand while chasing a target of 127 on a raging turner in Nagpur! Against Pakistan on Saturday here, their pursuit of Pakistan’s 118/5 appeared to be heading towards another disaster at 23/3 but Virat Kohli, as he has done so often in the past, absorbed all the pressure and guided India home in what was a crucial result for India in more sense than one.

Kohli’s 37-ball 55, which anchored India’s chase in the most of difficult of conditions, isn’t his best in terms of numbers. He has played several bigger innings but in terms of quality and significance, this has to be up there among the best. To say that the Eden surface on Saturday wasn’t an easy one to bat would be an understatement. The ball turned, and it turned square, from the moment spin was introduced. The ball was gripping and holding on a deck where even an average spinner made a top-order batsman look like a tail-ender.

It’s a tribute to Kohli’s skills, fitness and more importantly his fortitude in big matches like these that he almost often ensures India finish on the right side of the result. For someone who has developed an angry young man’s image, Kohli carries a remarkably cool head when he walks out to bat -- more the tension better his temperament gets. Come to think of it, Kohli loves such situations and his record while chasing totals substantiates it.

“I view this as an opportunity, that as a cricketer you have to take everything as a challenge,” said Kohli when he was asked if there were any nerves. “It’s important to take these things as a challenge and an opportunity rather than pressure. I feel very happy if it is a pressure situation or a pressure game or a big tournament, that I have an opportunity to perform and make my team win. That helps a lot in big tournaments, if you desire to contribute and your team wins. If the team wins because of your contribution, it gives you a very different feeling – it isn’t a goal, in terms of numbers, but you crave it as a feeling, that you have won the match for your side, that you have contributed and taken your team to that situation from where it can win,” he offered.

Matching his statements are his statistics. The 27-year-old has a whopping 15 ODI hundreds in chases (only Sachin Tendulkar with 17 has more in 236 matches while batting second as compared to Kohli’s 95) and in the last few months, he has managed to extend this ability to T20Is as well. This year alone, starting from the three-match series Down Under to Saturday’s match against Pakistan, Kohli has stacked up scores of 90 n.o., 59 n.o., 50, 7, 49, 56 n.o., 41 n.o., 23 and 55 n.o. He averages 83.60 in T20I run chases and that goes up to 109.16 in successful chases. Of the total 254 runs in six matches against Pakistan, he has scored 218 runs while batting second in four ties while the remaining 38 have come when India have batted first.

Kohli, as a personality, is quite different to other batsmen. The first instinct of many batsmen under pressure would be to hit out of trouble; to play those release shots. Kohli, instead, soaks up that pressure. He relies on singles and twos rather than big boundaries. And once he gets his eyes in, he is hard to dislodge.

“I think it’s the hunger to perform, that willingness to take up the challenge,” said skipper MS Dhoni when asked what sets Kohli apart. “Different people look at the same thing in different ways. The famous example is of half a glass of water, you know, half full or half empty. I feel his biggest plus-point is he takes everything as a challenge, he wants to improve, he wants to contribute in each and every game, and that’s what it’s all about, because he wants to contribute, he wants to score runs, he prepares well, he takes care of his fitness… He knows, he understands, now, on different wickets how he’s supposed to bat and score runs.”