by Venky

Al Capone once said, “I am like any other man.  All I do is supply a demand”. Virat Kohli seems to echo the sentiments of this legendary and notorious persona, albeit in situations that are more circumspect and sober. The stylish Indian Number 3 has of late morphed into a universally acknowledged monopolistic supplier of demands involving improbable run chases. Seemingly insurmountable targets in the shorter and shortest formats of the game are battered down by Kohli and the impossible transforms into the inevitable. A clinical demonstration of this extraordinary ability put paid to the ambitions of an Afridi led Pakistani side which was hoping to end their wretched jinx of having never defeated their arch rivals in a World Cup encounter. As the dust settled down at the magnificent Eden Gardens and the victors retired to celebrate, the vanquished were left licking their wounds and rue over a statistical incongruity which read 11-0.

However there is absolutely nothing incongruous about the way in which Kohli goes about his cricket. There is a refreshing joie de vivre with which this marauding yet assured phenomenon goes about dismantling his opponents with a cricket bat. Like a master artisan meticulously sculpting a masterpiece, Kohli has a patented method to his lethal madness. A method that massacred Malinga and Sri Lanka at Hobart; decimated George Bailey’s Australians at Jaipur; took the wind out of the collective Bangladeshi sails in the Asia Cup finals; and ran roughshod over a bunch of gregarious Pakistanis at Eden Gardens.

Having miserably crumbled to New Zealand in their home opener, India, even if not tottering, was in an extremely uncomfortable position having lost 3 wickets for only 23 runs. Having put into bat in a match curtailed by rain to 18 overs, Pakistan had garnered 118 difficult runs on a pitch that resembled more a treacherous mine field than a pristine featherbed that is usually the preserve of T20 games these days. Ashwin and Jadeja got the ball to turn square and at right angles. Hence it was something of a mystery when the Indian skipper decided not to back their spinners to complete their full quota of overs. An obdurate partnership involving Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal ensured that the Pakistani bowlers had a semblance of a competitive target to bowl with.

The Indian reply did not exactly follow the script when the extremely talented, but incorrigibly complacent Rohit Sharma had departed first after Shoaib Malik poached a mistimed skier off Mohammed Aamir. An inexplicably scratchy and tentative Shikhar Dhawan soon followed suit playing a fast Mohammed Sami delivery back onto his stumps. And when Suresh Raina, struggling for proper form was castled first ball not only was Sami on a hat-trick, India’s impeccable record of having never lost to their arch rivals in a World Cup encounter was being seriously imperiled. 23-3 and the momentum was totally with the guests. An added historical fact of Pakistan having never lost a game at the Eden Gardens seemed to have bestowed on them an infectious spurt. Yuvraj Singh joined Virat Kohli at the crease and managed to safely negotiate the hat-trick delivery.

Embodying the resolve of the indefatigable Michael “Terminator” Bevan and the unique assuredness of one of the best finishers of the game, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli decided to take matters into his own hands. Initially proceeding to work the ball both sides of the wicket, Kohli put his fabulous wrists to magisterial use by deftly flicking and driving the ball. A beautifully timed pull off Wahab Riaz through the mid wicket region provided a much needed release from the pressure that had enveloped the Indian batting. This was soon followed by the first six of the Indian innings when going down on one knee; Kohli slog swept Shoaib Malik to send the ball soaring high over the square leg boundary. The maestro was just beginning to warm up to yet another challenge. A breathtaking inside out shot that burnt the blades of grass at cover before thudding into the boundary provided ample testimony to the sheer class epitomizing the wrist work of Kohli. Spotting the length of the delivery in a flash, Kohli using lithe and nimble footwork employed his wrists in devastating fashion slapping the ball past the cover region. However the shot of the day was to follow soon. Mohammed Aamir was reintroduced into the bowling attack to dislodge a partnership that was attaining dangerous proportions. To a ball pitched slightly outside the off-stump, Kohli displaying the full face of the bat, timed the delivery exquisitely, placed it to perfection, before dispatching the ball to the cover boundary. Time seemed to stand still paying homage to an imperious genius in imperial form. Kohli however was not bent upon impressing a phalanx of Gods. He was paying his tribute to the one preceptor whom he revered and the only God whom he worshipped – Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. The greatest batsman the world has been grateful to witness since the Bradman era, acknowledged this honour with equanimity and pride as he applauded his protégé’s accomplishments from the stands. Another inside out shot with a predominant bottom hand whipping the ball towards the cover boundary brought Kohli near the brink of a landmark half century. When he attained the milestone, the rafters at the Eden Gardens came down in a thunderous chorus of approbation as thousands of fans gave vent to their feelings of euphoria.

Yuvraj Singh after essaying an innings of impact had departed the stage, but not before sending a ball sailing over the mid wicket boundary for a vintage Yuvraj six. His innings of 24 was punctuated by a six and a four each. By the time Kohli reached his 50, the target was whittled down to a mere 14 runs. As is the custom towards which M S Dhoni seems to possess a religious addiction, a towering six followed by a single finished the game off with 2 overs and a delivery to spare.

Yet again Virat Kohli had proved his mettle. Combining a Zen like tranquility with a controlled fury finding expression in an exuberant array of regal stroke making Kohli had once again drilled home the fact that when it comes to chasing down targets, his presence and performance was an indispensable factor. The progress of India and the performance of Kohli were now two factors that had an inextricable nexus between them incapable of being severed. An anomaly against New Zealand found its atonement against Pakistan. However, lest we forget this is just the beginning. Not only during the course of this World Cup, but long into the future, weighty demands will be ceaselessly placed on the sturdy shoulders of this great batsman in whom Sir Vivian Richards saw shades of himself. The demands will be relentless, rigorous and remorseless. But there is every reason to believe that Virat Kohli will deliver. The monopoly is under no threat and the supply stream shows no sign of abating!


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