Virat Kohli hammered a 61-ball 122 against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup super 4 stage on Thursday at the Dubai International stadium.
It was his 71st international ton and his first in a T20 international game. India went on to set a target of 213 which Afghanistan failed to achieve. The men in blue eventually won the match by 101 runs and Kohli was adjudged as the player of the match.
Shortly after the match got over, India skipper Rohit Sharma, for BCCI TV, interviewed the centurion. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
Rohit: Virat, hearty congratulations to you for your 71st century. The entire country was waiting for it to happen. There were a lot of takeaways from your innings, you picked the gaps well, targeted the right bowlers and your shot selection was immaculate. What are your thoughts on this innings?
Kohli: Thank you Rohit. It was a very special day as a team. We spoke after the last match as to how we should come to the field during this match as that will matter to us. The tournament was needed, we got the exposure of the knockout stages, but our goal as everyone knows is the World Cup in Australia. and it was that we are improving, learning from our past matches that did not go well. And personally, not only today but from the time I came back from my break. It was the first time in many years that I did not touch my bat, I got a lot of things in perspective from your end, management and the communication was clear that just let me bat.
I think that was needed for me, that space which was given to me by everyone that helped me relax in that phase and after I came back, I was excited thinking about what I could contribute for the team. I needed to play like this as we have a World Cup ahead and if I play well, I can contribute more for the team. These were the plans for today. Rahul Bhai, spoke to me 3-4 days back about how I could improve my strike rate batting first in the middle few overs. I had only one goal, whatever I wanted to improve from a team point of view I try it out at the Asia Cup. I did not expect it, I was shocked. As you(Rohit) mentioned after the match that no one expected me to score a century in this format after a long time. I was pleasantly surprised, very grateful and honoured right now.
Can you elaborate a bit more about your work ethics?
My aim was always to play in all three formats. I just banked on good cricketing shots always. I came to every tournament or series thinking that hitting sixes is not my biggest strength. I can do it if the situation demands, but I am better at finding gaps and hitting boundaries. As long as I can hit many boundaries, i would still serve the purpose of the team. I told the coaches that I would try to hit through the gaps rather than thinking of hitting sixes - something that’s needed to improve the strike rate in T20 cricket. I removed that from my system in this tournament and that helped because I could return to my template. It’s about being in a good space, enjoying your batting.
We can play in many ways. My responsibility and role in this team is to play according to the situation. If the demand to score is higher, I should be able to do that. My aim was that if I could be in that zone then I can be relaxed. It takes me 10-15 balls to settle down and then I can accelerate. I am very happy from the team’s point of view that I am back to playing in my template, which I was going away from because I was too desperate to do something which I was not in my game. I have come back to my template.
Your thoughts on KL Rahul’s knock today?
We should not ignore his knock. We know how important it is for KL to be in a good space going into the World Cup. We all know what he can do in this format, plays solid and clean shots. Once he bats well in T20 cricket, our team looks even more strong. We know how confident we are as a team. I am sure good things are to happen in the future.
We’ve got a couple of series coming up and then the T20 World Cup is also fast approaching. What are your plans for that?
You (Rohit) and I have been playing for so long, for us, it is about being in the right frame of mind and continue being in that space. That's the most important thing, so what we are creating in the change room is very special and sacred to all of us. We know how good we feel as a team in the change room and for us, the next two series against top teams are a chance to establish those good habits and be very consistent as a team and make good decisions under pressure.
Then we go into the World Cup knowing, "yes, we can do it against all these bowlers". The conditions will be different, might be tougher but we are going there earlier, so I see the next couple of months as a great phase where we play quality team's, go to Australia and have preparation time and we are absolutely ready come the first game of the World Cup.
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