India v Pakistan, Asia Cup, Mirpur March 19, 2012

The master of the chase

Virat Kohli's adaptability is a key strength that's helped him play such a critical role in helping India overhaul big totals

"I really like playing on this ground," Virat Kohli had said earlier this week, after being named Man of the Match for his 108 against Sri Lanka. On Sunday, he added another compelling reason for him to love the Shere Bangla National Stadium. His 183 against a top-quality Pakistan attack, in a high-pressure match in front of a packed house, was his fourth hundred at the venue. It also orchestrated India's largest successful ODI pursuit, and underlined his credentials as a master of the chase.

From the early days of his international career, he has shown his excellence as a chase artist. His first ODI century came in a little-remembered series of the many against Sri Lanka in recent years, stabilising India after the early loss of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar before helping them power through to a target of 316 with seven wickets remaining. He did something similar, though to a smaller extent, in the biggest match of his career to date, the World Cup final.

Having made his debut in 2008, he was still struggling to stand out among the muddle of competitors for a middle-order spot in the Indian team till late 2010. That's when he conjured another of his now regular centuries after India had been set a large target, against Australia in Visakhapatnam. It kickstarted an extraordinarily fertile spell, and he hasn't missed a match since. The numbers he's stacking up are staggering: in 48 innings batting second, he averages 58.40 and has seven hundreds and 13 half-centuries.

Less than three weeks ago, Kohli masterminded a miraculous chase against Sri Lanka in Hobart, through an unbeaten 86-ball 133 in a crunch match. He had called it his best innings, but now, there's a new contender for that title.

Back in 2005, MS Dhoni had taken a step towards superstardom with a 183 of his own, against Sri Lanka in Jaipur. What that innings is most remembered for is the sustained brute-force hitting - Dhoni had clubbed 10 sixes in an innings that lasted 145 deliveries. Kohli's effort on Sunday consumed just three deliveries more, but didn't contain that kind of violence.

For a 15-over spell till the start of the batting Powerplay, Kohli didn't even hit a boundary, relying more on his favourite way of building through the middle overs - the risk-free single down the ground. The entire innings contained only one six, an effortless hit that crashed into the hoarding beyond extra cover. One of his trademark strokes, the whip off his pads to send the ball anywhere between backward square leg and midwicket, made a frequent appearance and fetched him a lot of boundaries.

Even as late as the 40th over, he was coasting along at little more than a run-a-ball. Only at that stage did Kohli unleash a boundary-barrage with which Pakistan's hopes completely evaporated. For the second time in a month, India had chased down 300-plus comfortably and they had hardly needed the services of Dhoni, the finest finisher in the game.

What makes Kohli so dangerous is the adaptability of his game, something which Dhoni has also developed over the years. He can be the quiet workhorse, picking off the singles through the middle overs, or unfurl a Twenty20-style boundary spree. The ability to effortlessly mould his game to the match situation and the cool head to deal with the ever-present pressure of the asking-rate have been critical to his second-innings successes.

The flexible playing style also makes him an ideal No. 3, capable of taking the baton after a cracking start or providing the ballast in case of early losses. "Batting at No.3 is a very important position for the team. I value my wicket much more now," he said after the match, on a day when his one-day average breached 50. "I know if I get set, get a good platform for myself, then I can score more and help the team. As I said earlier it is [about] taking the game as close as possible. If one guy is doing very well at the other end, then I play a different role."

Many are put off by his invective-laden century celebrations, of which there was one more display in Mirpur, and the tattoos and the bling, but after an ultra-successful year and a half, few will be questioning his expertise at pacing a chase, or his position among the leading one-day batsmen around.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 21, 2012, 8:03 GMT

    Infact kohli has a get temperament and he has the ability to score runs in any format of the game ............his defence technique is perfect,he can comfortably hit the ball anywhere he wants,he picks up gaps very well,that's t the thing whicht seperates his talent and temperament than his other contendors. If he can make 183 in one-dayers with only one six,he is a perfect player for test...............he is young,can play test for next 2 decades and if his current batting form continues in same way,the records crafted by the maestro sachin may be in danger,in both the longer and shorter version of cricket...............indeed if he stays on crease for 2 days in tests,he can break the record of lara too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!So,he is definitely the future of indian cricket and he miht be the captain of the tem too if he and his form remains fit.

  • Dummy4 on March 20, 2012, 14:11 GMT

    In my opinion he does not have the temparament in test cricket and also needs improvement in his technique (poking outside the off stumo and agnst short pitched delivaries )and so do many of the youngsters in the line up including Raina. Rohit.

  • Dummy4 on March 20, 2012, 10:20 GMT

    Kohli's reaction after getting century was not cool i guess ! that must be answered next time ! India did not win it was our poor bowling bad fielding and poor captaincy which let them chase 330 very bad !

  • Nitin on March 20, 2012, 6:21 GMT

    @karunk: Dhoni can't play well outside subcontinent? For gods sake, he was the man of the series in england and played very crucial knocks in Australia under pressure. Moreover he bats at no-6.

  • Saurabh on March 20, 2012, 4:21 GMT

    rightly said by muski, kohli is the next ponting. sachin is far away from his reach. i would say him the best even if he reaches 75 hundreds in the world cricket. sachin deserves to be compared with sir don bradman,sir vivian richards , or brian lara ! and still if u dont judge sumone by his records, even sir don bradman shouldn't be considered great for his average of 99.94 !!!!!

  • Saurabh on March 20, 2012, 4:14 GMT

    kohli is in the peak of his career. like everyone else in the world cricket. he should only be admired only if he has the same hunger for atleast next 10 years.

  • ramesh on March 19, 2012, 23:00 GMT

    I feel Pakistan bowling is very much over rated. I know Indian bowling is in pathetic state and not talking about that. But Pakistan bowling is not as good as it is portrayed. Ajmal is fantastic, no doubt about that. Cheema is ordinary. Afridi is nowhere near his best. He should remember he is an all rounder. Otherwise I am not sure whether he deserve his place. Umar Gul , definitely not consistent to be a lead bowler. Hafeez - It can work for sometime and not always. Pakistan is in cloud and they should come out of that and look at the reality. With two new balls, they need to find 3rd seamer. I do not want to see Pakistan like India or Srilanka, searching for good fast bowlers.

  • Subash on March 19, 2012, 18:44 GMT

    I fail to understand why the dislike towards Sachin. The only reason I could come up with is "ENVY" and nothing else. How can one not like Sachin is beyond me. With all that he has achieved and yet knows how to keep his feet on the ground is remarkable. He is a true team player and plays for the country contrary to what every one thinks. Cricket is a team game and cannot be won single handedly. India lost agnst BNG the other day coz of pathetic bowling. Even agnst PAK we were lucky that PAK did not score 375+. 20 or 30 more runs and we wd hv lost that game as well. @adnan_rifat84 , I am sure you are the first to be never impressed by any of the Indian batsmen. As everyone, you have the right to your opinion and i respect that but it is first I have ever heard anyone in the world comment like that. The standing ovation that Indian batsment like Sachin,Dravid get everywhere they go is a testimony agnst your opinions.

  • muhammed on March 19, 2012, 18:36 GMT

    If Pakistan wanted be sure of winning they should have chased...... That's would most sides do if they are playing in perfect batting conditions. No blame to bowlers the fact is Kohli batted brilliantly and carried on Pak batsmen did not.... Also difficult to set safe target on good batting surface. Ultimately Misbah rightfully has no confidence in Pak chasing in pressure games! Riaz

  • Cricinfouser on March 19, 2012, 17:58 GMT

    kohli is the future of india .... a bright one

  • No featured comments at the moment.