Kohli, the entertainer

Indian captain Virat Kohli, playing with maturity that belied his 25 summers, took apart the Bangladesh attack in a precise, clear-headed manner. By Arun Venugopal.

When R. Ashwin came on to bowl in the 13th over, there wasn’t a great deal of excitement surrounding the event. Even when the tall off-spinner got rid of the intrepid Bangladesh left-hander, Mominul Haque, off his very first delivery — courtesy a crackerjack stumping from his Tamil Nadu mate K. Dinesh Karthik — it still didn’t set things aflutter.

But there was definitely an eyeball-popping moment or two when he ran up to deliver his next delivery. Wait, this wasn’t the ‘Ashwin-action’ we were familiar with. But, hey, here was a guy who we were accustomed to seeing change actions and modify arm-position right in the middle of a game. This was different, though. It reminded us of someone familiar, something very recent.

Not a few minutes had passed before feverish debates filled the social network. Ashwin’s load-up evoked strong similarities with Sunil Narine, and the chatter had duly begun. While wry humour was the dominant emotion, there was also considerable outrage among some.

Former India left-arm spinner Maninder Singh clearly didn’t like what he saw. “He has been trying so many variations. It generally happens that when you try too many things then you lose your originality and that is what is happening, and that is the worry for me,” he said.

“For me, Ashwin is a match-winner. But everything has gone haywire with him. I don’t know what the bowling coach has been doing with him, and what the main coach and captain have been doing with him.”

Unmindful of all this, the action at Fatullah — a dusty, industrial town situated about two hours from Dhaka — intensified steadily; Bangladesh’s batsmen, after being invited to bat, ramped up their scoring after a slow start. There was the wonderful Anamul Haque; blistering as he was with the power he generated, there was the chirpy grace of youth in many of his skips down the wicket. After Mominul had gone, skipper Mushfiqur Rahim and Anamul tore down the Indian attack with calculated fury.

Varun Aaron was reduced to nearly a bowling machine as Anamul, in particular, launched himself down the track whenever he saw the bowler in operation. The rapier-like inside-out drives and the thumps straight down the wicket were characteristic.

Aaron did manage to make his ‘mark’, in a dangerous way however, as his beamer felled Mushfiqur. The crowd rose to its feet and the air was rented with chants of ‘Mushfiqur... Mushfiqur’. When he did get back up to resume his innings, the cheers were deafening. Bangladesh scored a substantial, if not imposing, 279 for seven in 50 overs.

The sepulchral silence for the most part of the Indian innings was in stark contrast to the pandemonium during the Bangladeshi innings. The local fans did have a lot to cheer initially as Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan were besieged with quick, spicy deliveries.

Bangladesh’s new-ball attack of Mashrafe Mortaza and Rubel Hossain were near-lethal with the new ball.

After the openers were eventually dismissed, Indian captain Virat Kohli, playing with maturity that belied his 25 summers, took apart the Bangladesh attack in a precise, clear-headed manner. There wasn’t much by way of risk-taking; with Ajinkya Rahane in no hurry to get back to the dressing room, Kohli had the right partner.

The pristine timing in his strokes — the special weakness for the inside-out drive, the heavy, wristy flicks, and the bulldozing charge to the seamers — was complemented by Rahane, with his own brand of drop-and-run singles and sweetly-stroked drives.

By the end of the night, there wasn’t much Bangladesh could do except watch in jaw-dropping awe. Kohli, the leader, had turned a corner.

THE SCORES

Bangladesh: Anamul Haque b Aaron 77, Shamsur Rahman c & b Shami 7, Mominul Haque st. Karthik b Ashwin 23, Mushfiqur Rahim c Rohit b Shami 117, Naeem Islam c Ashwin b Shami 14, Nasir Hossain c Karthik b Shami 1, Ziaur Rahman c Aaron b Bhuvneshwar 18, Sohag Gazi (not out) 3, Mashrafe Mortaza (not out) 1, Extras (b-1, lb-3, w-12, nb-2): 18; Total (for seven wkts. in 50 overs) 279.

Fall of wickets: 1-16, 2-49, 3-182, 4-231, 5-241, 6-270, 7-276.

India bowling: Bhuvneshwar 8-1-41-1, Shami 10-1-50-4, Aaron 7.5-0-74-1, Ashwin 10-1-50-1, Jadeja 10-0-37-0, Rayudu 3-0-17-0, Kohli 1.1-0-6-0.

India: Rohit Sharma b Ziaur 21, S. Dhawan lbw b Razzak 28, V. Kohli b Rubel 136, A. Rahane c sub b Gazi 73, A. Rayudu (not out) 9,Dinesh Karthik (not out) 2, Extras (lb-1, w-9, nb-1): 11; Total (for four wkts. in 49 overs): 280.

Fall of wickets: 1-50, 2-54, 3-267, 4-272.

Bangladesh bowling: Mortaza 9-1-44-0, Rubel 10-1-63-1, Razzak 10-0-55-1, Ziaur 5-0-20-1, Gazi 8-0-49-1, Mominul 2-0-13-0, Naeem 1-0-15-0, Nasir 4-0-20-0.