At Australia, his favourite haunt, Virat Kohli looked at his imperious best as he helped India beat Pakistan in the ICC T20 World Cup opener at Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Before the start of the tournament, many questioned the presence of Virat Kohli in the Indian team for the ICC T20 World Cup.
For his fans, it is preposterous considering what Kohli has done for the team. But those doubting Kohli’s presence have a point: he has struggled of late, and his struggles have had a telling effect on him, by his admission, mentally.
The break before the ACC Asia Cup seems to have helped Kohli put things in perspective. And the Asia Cup in August and September showed that the king is back.
On Sunday, Kohli once again showed why he is considered one of the most talented players of his generation. Criticised for his unbridled outpouring of passion, Kohli appeared to have imbibed the ice-cool aura of the man who virtually mentored him to greatness – his former skipper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Kohli’s unbeaten 53-ball 82, which included six fours and four sixes, helped India register a thrilling four-wicket win over Pakistan – in a match that helped the Men in Blue back to winning ways against their arch-rivals in the World Cup following their humbling 10-wicket loss in the previous edition of the tournament a year back.
Pakistan bowlers put India on the back foot while chasing 160, reducing the latter to 31 for four in 6.1 overs.KL Rahul, if he doesn’t improve dramatically, is surely testing the patience of his supporters, and skipper Rohit Sharma, just like his opening partner, will be counting the days, faltering in the match that perhaps matters most.
Suryakumar Yadav has received a lot of attention, but he appears to have some serious issues with bowlers who crowd him for space. Despite obvious intentions – remember the oft-repeated left-right combination – the promotion of Axar Patel, remember a muck with the bat for those who have seen him at the local level, is perplexing because he has yet to realise his batting potential at a higher level.
But Kohli, and most importantly, India, found an able ally in Hardik Pandya – who not only mended his back but also realised his all-round potential. The duo added 113 runs in 13 overs to take India to the finishing line.
But before the line was crossed, Pandya fell to left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz in the first ball of the 20th over, with India still 16 runs short. But the drama had only begun. Kohli hit a six off a full toss that was ruled no-ball.
Nawaz felt the heat – a bit more than Kohli, perhaps. He bowled a wide and three byes followed on the free hit. It came to two off two. But Karthik’s attempt to slog sweep only ended with his stumping, putting India in a spot of bother.
But Nawaz, who reinvented himself in the T20 era, lost his nerves when it mattered most. A wide-off of what could have been the final ball of the innings made it one-on-one and Ravichandran Ashwin ensured India huffed and puffed its way to crossing the line.
Earlier, Arshadeep Singh buried the ghost of the Asia Cup as he picked three wickets – including one of the most dangerous opening pairs in world cricket, skipper Babar Azam and wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan – that put Pakistan in a spot of bother.
Pandya also chipped in with three wickets – wickets that helped India ensure clean up Pakistan’s middle order.
Half-centuries from Shan Masood (52*, 42b, 5×4) and Iftikhar Ahmed (51, 34b, 2×4, 4×6) along with a quickfire 8-ball 16 from Shaheen Shah Afridi, helped Pakistan reach 159 for eight from 20 overs.
BRIEF SCORE: Pakistan 159/8 (Shan Masood 52*, Iftikhar Ahmed 51; Hardik Pandya 3/30, Arshdeep Singh 3/32) lost to India 160/6 (Virat Kohli 82*, Hardik Pandya 40; Haris Rauf 2/36, Mohammad Nawaz 2/42) by four wickets