Entertaining fare

Back to his best... Virat Kohli celebrates after scoring a century in the fourth ODI against West Indies in Dharamshala.-PICS: AKHILESH KUMAR

It was a decent gift from Virat Kohli to the passionate cricket lovers of Dharamshala. Vijay Lokapally reports.

It is the serenity of the place that captivates the mind every time you visit Dharamshala. Carved out of a rocky terrain, it appeals to the players to give their best in conditions best suited for a competitive contest. The efforts of the hosts are much evident in the manner in which the venue treats its visitors. Cricket becomes an enjoyable spectacle on a pitch that plays true and encourages quality stuff. Virat Kohli would agree readily.

On the eve of the match, Kohli, striving to regain lost form, had observed, “That is what we expect in Dharamshala. We have played a lot of games here and the wicket is lively and has a good bounce and carry for the seamers. It is enjoyable for the batsmen as well. The ball travels a long way and if you end up playing the correct shots, you get value for your shots. It is going to be a good battle of bat and ball. Bowlers and batsmen are there to take advantage of that wicket at any point of time.”

Marlon Samuels... century in vain.-

As things turned out, Kohli made the most with a strokeful century, his 20th in One-Day internationals. It was time he did justice to his potential and the ghosts of the last England tour were being exorcised by a gifted cricketer. It was a matter of confidence and Kolhi displayed plenty of it in the company of Suresh Raina. Their 138-run stand for the third wicket was as entertaining as it can get and played a crucial part in shaping the course of the match.

Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane did the initial work with some sensible batting and then left the stage for Kohli and Raina. The West Indians were in a generous mood too as the bowlers pitched short and offered easy scoring opportunities to the batsmen. At times, it was hard to believe the bowlers were engaged in an international match as runs were conceded far too easily and India cruised to a total that was going to present the West Indies a stiff challenge.

A dance performance by folk artistes from Himachal Pradesh entertained the spectators before the start of the match.-

Kohli was in splendid form as he picked the line of the ball early and launched a flurry of shots square of the wicket. Raina was not to be left behind and there was entertainment for the crowd. They had turned up in impressive numbers and cheered every player to add to the glorious ambience. Kohli and Raina gave the Indian bowlers the strength to decimate the opposition but not before a lively resistance from Marlon Samuels.

The West Indians lacked the will to fight. Two partnerships of over fifty, involving Samuels with Darren Bravo and Andre Russell, were not enough for the West Indies to reach the destination. Samuels’ was a sterling show, his seventh ODI century exposing the brittle Indian attack, especially seamer Mohammed Shami and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, both mediocre and lacking in spirit. An exception was Axar Patel, who gave a good account of his left-arm spin, certainly superior to Jadeja.

Kohli was the ‘Man of the Match’ and rightly, too. It was a decent gift from him to the passionate cricket lovers of Dharamshala.