The knock that announced the arrival of Virat Kohli
There comes a time in the life of a sportsman, when he graduates from being just another player to a talent to keep an eye on. These are the turning points in a sportsman’s career that herald the sign of things to come.
February 28, 2012 was one such day.
The venue for this classic was the Hobart Cricket Ground in Australia. The Common Wealth Bank series was nearing its climax, and India took on Sri Lanka in a very important clash.
The Islanders batted first and posted a mammoth 320/4, with Dilshan and Sangakkara smashing centuries. India needed to bat extremely well, for they had to chase down the target within 40 overs, which meant that they had to go at a run rate of 8 runs an over.
Sehwag and Tendulkar gave India a flying start, but both of them perished in quick succession.
And with the score at 86/2 after 9.2 overs, in walked a 22-year-old man, responding to the name of Virat Kohli.
He had a look of intent on his face as he faced up to the Sri Lankan pace spearhead Lasith Malinga. The first ball he faced was flicked past mid-wicket, and the ball raced to the boundary for four.
Kohli’s second boundary proved that it was a craftsman at work. Thisara Perera bowled the ball on off stump, Kohli got onto the front foot and played a gorgeous cover drive, bisecting cover and mid-off with the precision of a surgeon.
Perera then tried to outwit Kohli by bowling a slower delivery, but Kohli spotted it early, and timed it beautifully over Cover for a six.
A flick off Kulasekara to deep mid-wicket took Kohli to his half-century.
Kulasekara then bowled the ball on middle stump, and Kohli moved to the off side and paddled it past fine leg for four. He was now playing with the field, just like how his idol, Sachin Tendulkar used to, when he was in his prime.
Then came the shot of the match, and it is shots like these that proved that the world was witnessing the blossoming of a rare talent. Malinga bowled a perfectly good delivery on off stump, Kohli got onto the front foot, and just whipped the ball over mid-wicket with disdain.
Kohli’s mastery shone through in the next over bowled by Kulasekara as well. The Sri Lankan speedster bowled one on Kohli’s pads, and he just whipped it past deep mid-wicket for four.
Kulasekara then tried to compensate for it, by bowling on off stump, but the Indian batsman got on the front foot and flicked him past mid-on. The batting sensation then lofted Kulasekara over cover for another boundary.
The Delhi Dynamite got to his hundred with a flick to deep mid-wicket off Malinga, and after he reached the three-figure mark off just 76 balls, Kohli punched the air in delight and kissed his helmet.
And once Kohli reached his hundred, he went on a rampage, unleashing a brutal assault on Malinga that will be talked about for ages.
In the second ball of the 35th over, Kohli sent the ball soaring into the crowd with a flick of his wrists. The next ball that Malinga bowled was driven with finesse through cover and mid-off. And, as the ball raced to the boundary, Tony Greig exclaimed in the commentary box, “That’s the shot of the day.”
In the 4th ball of the over, Malinga bowled a perfect yorker, but Kohli flicked it with grace for another boundary. In the penultimate delivery, he repeated the same shot, and this time, the ball went to the right of deep mid-wicket for four. In the last ball of the over, Malinga bowled one outside off stump and Kohli just walked across his stumps and flicked him for another boundary.
The 35th over bowled by Malinga read 2, 6, 4, 4, 4, 4. Sri Lanka's premier bowler was absolutely shattered and the team was left in a daze.
In the 4th ball of the 36th over, Kohli sealed the match for India with a gorgeous straight drive down the ground, and the Indians celebrated in ecstasy.
Mark Taylor exclaimed in the commentary box, “This is about as good an ODI knock as you will ever see.”
Yes! February 28, 2012 announced the arrival of a batting sensation, and from then on, there has been no looking back for Virat Kohli.