No bar whatsoever to rave about Virat Kohli, a class act: his remarkable gift to rise to the occasion in crunch matches against top-notch opponents, penchant for the lovely drives in front of the wicket, flicks to mid-wicket, deploying his wrists to achieve magnificent timing, playing the conventional text-book shots, clouting the ball into the stratosphere and what not.
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The straightforward fact, though, is that his all-encompassing deeds calculate to a high 26.66 per cent of the runs scored off the bat by India in the 42 Twenty20 matches (39 innings) the Delhi dasher has turned out for the team. Break the percentage numbers to batting first and second and one gets to impressive figures of 32.13 (22 matches, 918 runs off 692 balls) while chasing and 21.39 (20 matches, 634 runs off 475 balls) while setting a target.
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Twenty20 is all about numbers; runs scored, balls faced, strike rate, 4s and 6s, entertainment value and there is no ambiguity at all that Kohli fits the bill perfectly on all these counts. He has made 1,552 runs off 1,167 balls and in the same matches his teammates have made 4,269 runs; and this particular piece of arithmetic proves that he’s head and shoulders above the rest.
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He tops the average with a high of 55.43 (35.22 batting first and 91.80 while chasing) and the second best is amazingly, Kenya’s Hiren Varaiya who has an average of 51.00, playing 25 matches, scoring 51 runs in 12 innings and remaining unbeaten 11 times! Varaiya is a slow left-arm spinner and batted at No. 9 and 10.
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King at No. 3
This is the heyday of India’s brightest spark, who has been applauded by the experts time and again for his extraordinary cricketing skills and maturity. Many more records belong to Kohli now in the shortest form of the game; one of which is that he’s the uncrowned king at No. 3 with 1,395 runs, scoring more than half of it while batting second for an incredible average of 99.13.
Kohli occupies a position which is very crucial across all formats, and others who have hogged the limelight coming to the scene of action at the fall of the first wicket are Kevin Pietersen, Brendon McCullum, Michael Hussey, Suresh Raina, Mohammad Hafeez, Faf Du Plessis and Kumar Sangakkara.
It has not been easy, though, for the technically sound right-hander in recent times. He has been summoned to the middle at the fall of either Sharma or Dhawan inside the first six overs of the Power Play when only two men are positioned outside the 30-yard circle. Once the team returned after stifling Australia at Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, India floundered against Sri Lanka on a green-top wicket in Pune; it was a short three-match series in which Kohli was given a break.
Soon, in the Asia Cup at Bangladesh, he appeared as a master craftsman and master stroke-player. When Pakistan’s brilliant left-arm seamer Mohammad Amir removed Sharma and Shawan for a duck each, Kohli, gird up his loins, held his ground in the face of adversity and ended as a match winner.
Kohli found a way out to stay put in the middle. He refrained from employing the unconventional horizontal shots and avoided all risks. In the next match when Dhawan came after facing three balls, Kohli demonstrated adroitness to shape partnerships with Raina and Yuvraj Singh to get past the Sri Lankan hurdle. His individual drive and brilliance came to the fore in the final when Sharma departed facing just five balls.
Somehow Pakistan brings the best in him; scores of 78 * (ICC World Twenty20, Colombo 2012), 36 * (ICC World Twenty20, Mirpur 2014), 49 (Mirpur 2016) and 55 * (ICC World Twenty20, Kolkata 2016) reflected a lot about his mindset while playing the arch-rival.
Not at all surprising was his top-drawer effort against Australia at Mohali on Sunday. A high degree of consistency in the immediate preceding matches (50 at Sydney, 59* at Melbourne) and (90* at Adelaide) took his average to 74 after somewhat not so good scores of 22, 31, 15 and 23 in the first four matches.
Kohli will arrive at the Wankhede Stadium for the semifinal against West Indies with fond memories of winning the World Cup in 2011; he had played his part then, stalling Lasith Malinga, who had ejected Virender Sehwag (0) and Sachin Tendulkar (18) from the middle. Just two and half years into the big boys league of international cricket, Kohli made a stoical 35 and ran a partnership with Gautam Gambhir. One year later, he made 38 off 20 balls against England in aTwenty20 match that Eoin Morgan won for his side.
There has been an odd bad patch here and there, but someone who has played 41 Test matches and hit 11 centuries, 171 ODIs and scored 25 centuries, has a World Cup under his belt and is India’s captain in Test match cricket, ought to be doing the right things on the cricket field. When was he caught in the finger-wagging act the last time? Well, Virat Kohli is a focussed man with the ultimate aim of scoring runs for his team - in flannels or blue.
As of now, he’s on top of the world of Twenty20 cricket; but a monumental task is upon him and Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s India and that will start with the semifinal shoot out against West Indies on Thursday. Kohli has made 14 at Port of Spain and more importantly 54 against it in the previous ICC World Twenty20 in Mirpur two years ago. Shane Warne had said after the India-Australia match that he would bowl on one side of the wicket and around and outside the off stump to Kohli in top-form.