Virat Kohli: A different kind of dangerous at Australia
You have a very bad day. Things don't go the way you like. Everything seems meaningless. But there would always be a place which could fix the issues. Maybe, a placid lakeside with the cool atmosphere. The ducks would float on the lake and the calm of the water would give a soothing sensation to the mind. Or maybe, it could just be under a huge banyan tree. The tree which always breathes carbon-dioxide, so you could lie under it with eyes closed without a second thought. There are places that our mind loves so much, that just the thought of the place will give us a relief.
Look at Roger Federer. He can smell the grass at Wimbledon from Switzerland. That is why he is one of the most successful tennis players on grass. Or just have a look at Rafael Nadal, once he steps foot in the clay at Paris, he is unbeatable. It is inexplicable how, but the toughest of courts to play in is the favourite spot for Rafael Nadal to be in. He could beat Harry Houdini in a magic contest on the clay court.
If we look at FC Barcelona, they perform seamlessly whenever they are at Santiago Bernabeu. It is the home ground of their arch-rivals but all of their best performances have come at the Bernabeu.
From the day Ronaldinho tore the defences of Madrid apart all alone to Xavi's magical 360° turn in the 6-2 win, Barcelona has delivered great performances at the stadium. Even in recent times, we can remember Andres Iniesta's brilliant performance in Barcelona's 4-0 win and Lionel Messi's 92nd-minute winner. Simply put, Santiago Bernabeu is heaven to FC Barcelona.
These are existent examples of surreal success when it comes to certain places and in-turn happiness as well.
What is it for the best Indian Batsman right now? Maybe even the best batsman in the world right now, which his ranking suggests he is. Virat Kohli. A man who adapts to every situation before him. The consistency and adaptability of this beauty of a player are unimaginable.
He could go to swinging conditions in England and perform. He could do the same at the fast tracks in South Africa. Be it the spin-friendly pitches at home or at Srilanka, this man adapts to every situation presented. For a player who doesn't favour any places as such, one place stands out.
The country of Australia or a continent as some might label it. This country breathes cricket 24*7. No other player has gotten under the skin of the Australians as Virat Kohli has. To be more precise Virat has been on a different level while at Australian shores.
He could go to Australian pitches and perform wearing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt if that is required. He has the uncanny ability to shut the crowds up with his bat. Even when the Australians try to get under his skin, he gives the ultimate reply with the bat.
The first Test century: A 116 under pressure
The transformation of Virat Kohli from a raw performer to a talent to reckon with started in Australia. The 4th Test at Adelaide, 2012. Australia breached the 600 run barrier in the first innings and India's second innings was off to a bad start.
Being reduced to 111-4, in came a young boy, seeking nothing less than vengeance with the bat. Although Australia kept on chipping at the wickets at the other end, this boy stood as a thorn on their side till the last ball of the innings. The 116 at Adelaide, the first Test century for the 24-year-old, who was the sole performer for the Indians with the bat, on that day.
Then, it could have been seen as a rare bit of complacency from the always firing Australians but now it is clear that it was the batting masterstroke of the young batting prodigy.
Australia doesn't necessarily hate Kohli. But it is apparent that they sure get triggered by a performer of his standards, who don't just keep quiet when something is said to him. This man is a great talker but doesn't get psyched out due to it.
He could get into a 10-minute banter with Mitchell Johnson and still drive the wits out of him the very next ball. There have been players who could talk, there have been players who could perform and then there is Kohli.
The 2014 tour: Kohli's rise to the top
Kohli returned to Australia in 2014. This time as a more mature batsman, as India's next big thing. India went into the first Test without MS Dhoni and then Virat Kohli was the stand-in captain.
This was the first look at what a future Indian team would look under the fiery captaincy of Kohli. Needless to say, it wasn't long before the verbal battles started. Kohli slammed his second century at Adelaide with a brilliant 115.
Things got spicy in the second innings when Virat Kohli brought Rohit Sharma into the bowling attack. One appeal from Rohit Sharma and Steve Smith was seemingly amused by it.
Rohit, Smith, and Virat got into a long banter before David Warner of all people acted peacemaker. Prior to this incident, Warner and Dhawan got into an argument when the latter was unhappy about the constant chirpings of Warner towards Varun Aaron.
Virat was unrattled by the events and would go on to slam a century in the second innings. The 141* is one which he still rates as his best Test innings. Kohli's bat did a lot of talking but his mouth wasn't going to keep quiet. He looked Smith in the eye and said, "Stay in your limits". Later on, he would go on in front of the media and make things even more clear. Kohli scored twin centuries at Adelaide.
Unmoved by the Australian antics, Kohli would return again in the third Test after failing in the second Test. The events at Melbourne could not be forgotten by any fan of Virat Kohli. It was a day when he gave Australia a piece of his mind. Perhaps, beat them at their own game.
During the enthralling partnership with Ajinkya Rahane, Australia's frustrations blew out of control. Mitchell Johnson would pick the ball up and hurl it right at Virat Kohli's body, clearly a bit wayward and probably just out of frustration. When all of us were thinking that Kohli would talk a lot before getting on with proceedings, he gets back up and does nothing.
That moment showed that Kohli is certainly growing more mature as a player. Still, he would not stop. After helping a ball towards the boundary, he would tell Johnson to his face that the throw was uncalled for.
Johnson, unhappy by the talk and the batting of Kohli, would talk back. But then came Johnson's big chance to have the bragging rights. Edge by Kohli but dropped by Watson. He had a chance in the next ball, a ball hooked high in the air but dropped this time by Haddin.
Kohli wasn't going to miss the opportunity to make the Aussies pay. He pulled Johson for three consecutive boundaries in the overs that followed. Towards the end of the day, Kohli was out to spoil Johnson's day again.
Kohli smashed Johnson through the covers twice and as the stare came in from Johnson, the right-handed batsman showed off his biceps to the Aussie pacer. It wouldn't end there though, Kohli smashed the next ball over the 30-yard circle towards long off. As he moved up the pitch, he blew three kisses at Johnson's face.
At the end of the day, Kohli was removed by Johnson. But he had already rubbed the salt all over the wounds and surprisingly the send-off didn't come in. The boos of the Melbourne crowd turned into claps. The whole of MCG stood up to applaud the miraculous innings by the Virat Kohli.
The 2016 Tour: Testifying his case as the best batsman in the World
Kohli came to Australia following a poor showing in the World Cup 2015 which took place at Australia. The tour had 5 ODIs and 3 T20Is to be played.
Kohli's first match of the tour ended in a heartbreak as he got out agonizingly for a score of 91 to James Faulkner. Faulkner was seemingly the substitute for Mitchell Johnson in terms of engaging Kohli in a banter. During the innings, Faulkner went on to sledge Virat. Kohli took it casually and asked Jimmy to go back and ball. This is the conversation that followed.
Faulkner: We are having fun, aren't we?
Kohli: I smashed you enough in my life, no point.
Wasim Akram who was in Australia for commentating duties said to Virat after his 91. "Come on Virat, you should have got your 24th (ODI Century)". Kohli replied with conviction. "I will give you 25 hundred before this series ends."
And true to his words, Kohli made centuries in the third and fourth one-dayers, taking his century tally to 25. At Canberra, in the 4th ODI, Kohli, and Faulkner went at each other again. Kohli smashed a huge six off Faulkner's bowling and put his heads on his bat, signalling that he wanted to sleep.
In the T20I series that followed, Kohli was named Man of the Series. He got scores of 90, 59 and 50 in the three matches. And would he let the kangaroos be? No chance.
When the crowd started on him in the first game, he had his fun by pretending to not hear the crowd. He followed it up with a be silent sign for the crowd. He gave a wave-off to Steve Smith which he later said was due to Smith sledging Hardik Pandya.
When we look at Kohli in Australia, it is something else. There is a great thrill in watching Kohli play at Australia against them. Simply because he doesn't back down. It is always a great contest.
From the banters, to the beautiful drives and the unerring running between the wickets, Kohli puts his everything into the game. The Australians are delusional if they think he will lose concentration because of banters. He hardly does.
The gentleman's game takes a new perspective when Kohli steps in Australian soil. It is a tour in which everyone has to fight. This time Kohli will step in Australia as a captain. And this Indian team loves to fight. There is hardly anyone who would be silent to the Australians, in case they want to talk. The captain certainly won't be backing down.
Hopefully, Mitchell Starc will be fit for the series. For the sake of good cricket, let's hope he is. And that is what we all love. A world in which there is always something to fight for. Virat is a different kind of dangerous at Australia.Published 18 Nov 2018, 08:33 IST