After the embarrassing exit in last year’s T20 World Cup in the UAE, the Men in Blue had found a new leader in Rohit Sharma. Under his leadership, the team adopted a new approach of being aggressive from the outset. Virat Kohli was woefully out of form for the last couple of years. He was struggling big time to find his strokes let alone cope with this new approach.
All of a sudden, he found himself playing out of character and the struggle just got bigger. It wasn’t just the shortest format, he was going through a lean patch across all formats. His numbers in the IPL 2022 weren’t promising either . Just a couple of months back, some experts believed that Virat Kohli wasn’t fitting anymore in India’s squad for the T20 World Cup.
Just before the big tournament, India headed to the Asia Cup T20 in the UAE. They lost to the arch-rivals Pakistan in the Super Four, followed by a drubbing against Sri Lanka. They were knocked out of the race to the final which brought back the ugly memories of the T20 World Cup exit last year in the same place.
However, it wasn’t that bad a result as Virat Kohli was once again hitting his straps. In an inconsequential encounter against Afghanistan, he smashed 122 runs from 61 balls. The long wait for his 71st international hundred finally ended. In the tournament, he amassed 276 runs from 5 innings which was second only to Mohammad Rizwan who scored 5 more runs in one extra outing.
Virat Kohli was back and roaring again. That was enough to signal that modern day great is at the peak of his powers again. If that wasn’t enough, his first outing in the T20 World Cup in Australia just stamped his authority.
The very first game that India played in the tournament was once again against Pakistan. In front of a packed MCG which contained more than 90,000 spectators and millions watching at home, Kohli gave all of them a day to remember. The way he snatched the victory from the jaws of defeat with a scintillating 82 was worth traveling miles for.
When it comes to the India-Pakistan rivalries in World Cups, the Indian fans vividly remember Sachin Tendulkar‘s immortal innings of 98 in Centurion in the 2003 edition. His upper cut to Shoaib Akhtar that flew for a maximum has been etched in the memories forever. Virat Kohli has registered himself in that category with that jaw-dropping six off the back foot off Haris Rauf over long-on in the penultimate over.
In the match that followed against the Netherlands, he struck another unbeaten half-century that further established the fact that the King is back to his best. He was the Player of the Tournament in the T20 World Cup in 2014 and 2016. Yes, he loves the big stage and has proved himself time and time again.
But there is something different about Virat Kohli and Australia. Each time he travels down under, it brings out the best in him and his game reaches a whole new level. Whether it was his maiden Test century in Adelaide in 2012 or the four Test centuries in the 2014/15, or the first Test series victory in Australia in 2018/19 under his captaincy, most of his glory moments in the career have come in Australia.
Just like Rahul Dravid always found England as the place for his best performance, Kohli has done that in Australia. The crowds down under adore him for the aggression that he possesses. For that attribute, he seems more Australian to them than an Indian.
What worked for him in the two innings that he has played in the T20 World Cup so far is the approach that he always followed. Before the tournament, the Indian batting was going hammer and tongs from the beginning. However, that method doesn’t seem to work in Australia. It’s the Virat Kohli way that has shown the path.
Kohli loves to spend time in the middle as he accumulates by looking for singles and doubles initially. The grounds here are bigger as compared to those back home. Therefore, he is able to nudge the ball around. There is certainly no one better in running between the wickets and sensing an opportunity of converting ones into twos or twos into threes. By keeping wickets in hand, the middle and lower middle order can go berserk in the death overs.
This is a template that works best in Australia and Virat Kohli is a master at that. His love for Australia combined with this template is making him far superior than the rest. India have benefited big time from this and are looking more settled than any other team in the competition.