Virat Kohli snapped the dry spell in style by thumping his first T20I century and regaining the lost mojo.
India defeated Afghanistan by 101 runs on Thursday to register their second biggest win in the T20Is. Riding on Virat Kohli’s dazzling hundred, India scored a huge 212-2 in their 20 overs and then restricted Afghanistan to 111-8 to bag a consolation win in the ‘Super Four’ round of Asia Cup 2022. Both the teams are already out of the tournament. The final between Sri Lanka and Pakistan will be played on Sunday.
After failing to qualify for the final, India have many issues to fix before the T20 World Cup begins a month later. However, if there’s one positive for them from the Asia Cup, it is Kohli roaring back to form. It had been a while since Kohli was grappling with middling form, having not scored an international hundred since November 2019. Though he managed a few fifties in the ODIs in the last 3 years, his performances in T20Is and Tests were largely subpar.
On Thursday, he snapped the dry spell in style by thumping his first T20I century and regaining the lost mojo. His unbeaten 122 is also the highest T20I score by an Indian. With this hundred, Kohli has now notched up 71 international tons and is only behind Sachin Tendulkar’s 100 hundreds.
More than just the runs he scored, the way Kohli batted was reminiscent of his halcyon days. The 33-year-old looked in imperious touch and executed his shots with panache and supreme authority. Opening the innings in absence of Rohit Sharma, he began by flicking the left-arm seamer Fazalhaq Farooqi for a boundary in the 3rd over and got into his stride in the 6th over as he cracked the off-spinner Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman for two boundaries and a six.
Kohli waltzed down the track and blasted a boundary at the long-off on the 3rd ball of the over. He swept the next ball masterfully to clock up another four. Then he once again used his feet decisively and walloped a six down the ground.
There was no looking back from that point onwards as he drove, sliced and flicked with self-assured aplomb. He placed the ball with finesse and didn’t leave any stone unturned in pinching quick singles and doubles.
One of the distinct characteristics of Kohli has always been the ability to marvellously calibrate his innings. After reaching fifty in the 11th over, the master batsman effortlessly cranked up the tempo and reeled off an array of gorgeous shots which had his unique stamp.
As is his wont, he didn’t only rely on aerial shots. Instead, he plundered runs by playing standard but exquisite shots. In the 17th over, he dexterously threaded the gap between square leg and fine-leg to muster two more boundaries. In the next over, he skillfully squeezed the ball through backward point and then slashed over short third-man to gather fours.
He reached his hundred in the 19th over by whipping out a domineering pull for a six when Fareed Ahmad dug in a short ball. In the last over of the innings, Kohli bludgeoned two more sixes as India finished at 212-2 in 20 overs. He remained unbeaten on 122 off just 61 balls.
Earlier in the tournament, Kohli had racked up half-centuries against Hong Kong (59*) & Pakistan (60) and had given signs of him returning to the form. Though those were fine innings, they lacked the zing and brilliance of Kohli. But his sizzling hundred against Afghanistan, which was audacious and fabulously fluent, has dispelled all the lingering doubts about his patchy poor.
Before the Asia Cup began, there was uncertainty about his future in T20Is. In fact, his chances of playing the T20 World Cup hinged on his performance in the Asia Cup. Like a champion sportsperson, Kohli has shut the mouths of naysayers by letting his bat do all the talking.
The fact that he has clouted this century as an opener has given India a chance to try him as Rohit’s partner regularly in this format. This will give them an opportunity to send a power-hitter at no.3 which is the need of the hour.
By his own admission, his patchy form in the last three years has taught him a lot and given him a much-needed perspective about his game and life. Before this rough patch, he had never copped failure for a long period. Kohli 2.0 certainly seems more sagacious, driven and mature than before.
Though India have been doing excellently in the bilateral limited-overs series, they haven’t won any major ICC tournament since 2013. Kohli roaring back to form has given a fillip to India’s chances of winning the next T20 World Cup.