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How critical is Virat Kohli to India chasing down a target in ODIs?

Virat Kohli has taken his game to a whole new level in the past couple of years and his best is generally seen during run-chases.

Kohli has been India’s talisman during run-chases for quite some time now

New Zealand levelled the 5-match ODI series by beating India by 19 runs in the fourth ODI at Ranchi and both sides will battle it out at the 5th ODI at Vishakhapatnam to clinch the series. India had previously taken a 2-1 lead in the series by winning the third ODI at Mohali by seven wickets.

After some brilliant lower-order batting by Jimmy Neesham and Matt Henry, India were given a target of 286 to win. After losing both openers with only 41 runs on the board, vice-captain Virat Kohli and skipper MS Dhoni put up a 151-run stand for the third wicket to pile pressure on the New Zealand bowling attack.

Kohli started getting runs steadily and gradually elevated his game by the minute to notch up his 26th ODI century and ended up scoring 154 runs off 134 balls which is also Kohli’s second score of 150+ in ODIs after his majestic 183 against Pakistan in the 2012 Asia Cup. Kohli was awarded the Man of the Match for his monumental knock and once again proved why he is India’s talisman in ODIs especially when it comes to chasing down totals.

Having made his ODI debut in 2008, Kohli played an important role in India’s 2011 World Cup win with the bat and on the field but his best was to be seen after the tournament. In the last four years, Kohli has established himself as India’s best batsman through his consistent performances with the bat and is currently regarded to be the best batsman in the world at present.

Kohli’s best has often been seen when India are chasing a target as out of the 7505 runs he has scored in ODIs, 4701 of them have been scored while chasing at a mind-boggling average of over 62 and an equally impressive strike rate of 93.

It all began in the 2010 tri-series

Kohli’s abilities in chasing down targets were first seen during the India-Sri Lanka-Bangladesh tri-series in 2010 when he had just begun his journey with the national team. In India’s 2nd ODI against Bangladesh, the team was reeling at 51/3 chasing a target of 297 before Kohli scored an impressive knock of 91 and helped India achieve the target.

In India’s very next match against Sri Lanka, Kohli scored a crucial 68-ball 71 to help India chase down the required total in quick time and attain a bonus point.

Since July 2012, India have played 95 matches and have won 34 while chasing and out of those, India have ridden on a significant contribution from Kohli on 13 occasions.

Also read: Top 5 Virat Kohli centuries in chases

From his monumental effort of 133 to help India reach the final of the VB series to his 183 against Pakistan at the Asia Cup to his 52-ball century against Australia at Jaipur in 2013 which helped India chase down a target of 360 in less than 40 overs, Kohli has done it all. The 27-year-old has often shown how crucial he is to India’s chances of chasing down a total in T20s as well through his performances at the previous two World T20s especially at the 2014 ICC World T20 where he was awarded the Player of the Tournament for his performances. 

The current Test skipper played a huge part throughout the competition where he scored two half-centuries in the group stages against West Indies and Bangladesh, both resulting in successful run chases. 

However, his best innings of the tournament would perhaps be his 44-ball 72 against South Africa in the semi-finals which helped India chase down a total of 172 and reach the final. Kohli called this innings as the best T20 innings of his career. 

He won his second straight Player of the Tournament award at the 2016 ICC World T20 where he played a number of crucial knocks throughout the competition but his most important one will probably be his 51-ball 82 against Australia in what was perhaps a virtual quarter-final for India.

So what makes Kohli Tick?

Virat Kohli
Kohli has single-handedly won India numerous matches while chasing

So what is with Virat Kohli in run-chases? What makes him a run-machine? The answer lies in his childhood and how it has constructed his personality over the years. Having lost his father aged 18, Kohli has often stated this to be a turning point in his career and this has possibly fueled him to become the cricketer he currently is.

It also has an impact on his batting as he takes calculated risks and as we have seen, even while chasing totals as large as 350, he frequently goes for safe strokes which fetch him boundaries rather than going for the lofty shots. His strike rate in ODIs suggests that he is an aggressive batsman. He is confident but does not prefer taking too many risks which is probably the reason behind his brilliant cover drive which is regarded to be one of the best in the history of the game.

His risk-free approach allows him to play with ease and his understanding of run-chases negates the pressure off his other teammates which also allows them to play freely and contribute well.

Also read: When Virat Kohli took his first international wicket off his 0th delivery in T20Is

There have been so many times that India have relied on Kohli’s heroics with the bat to take them through and Kohli’s dismissal has on a few occasions led to India’s downfall. A few such instances were witnessed during India’s ODI series against Australia and New Zealand during the 2013-14 season.

Against Australia, while chasing a total of 304, India’s batting was gradually stabilizing before Kohli got out on 61 and India lost their next five wickets for only 66 runs. In India’s Tour of New Zealand in early 2014, Kohli’s dismissal in the opening ODI, while he was batting on 123, turned out to be the deciding factor in the Kiwis’ 24-run victory. Even in the final ODI of that Tour, Kohli’s dismissal for 82 was fateful for India as they were bundled out for 216 while chasing a target of 304.

Increased responsibility

In the last couple of years, Kohli’s responsibility towards Team India has risen to a whole new level with Dhoni relinquishing the Test captaincy in addition to being the mainstay of the batting lineup.

With Dhoni’s recent dip in form which has seen him struggle of late, India are in dire need of a finisher. In a number of matches over the last 2-3 years, Kohli has been able to provide the finishing touch with the most recent instance being in the third ODI at Mohali where he began steadily, going at a strike rate of 80-85 but during the final stages of the match, he began to show a bit of aggressive intent and finished the match with a strike rate of 114.92.

With Dhoni not being the same as he was a few years back, a lot of the finishing responsibilities will fall on Kohli.

Kohli has been nothing short of sensational this year and his form seems to be improving with each passing game. If he maintains his consistency for the next few years, then he might help India win their third cricket World Cup in 2019.

(Video courtesy: Vishal Punia YouTube channel)

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