I look forward to challenges like these - Kohli
India were 12 for 3 on a turning pitch in the opening game of the World T20 against New Zealand in Nagpur, and slumped to a 47-run defeat after Virat Kohli was dismissed for 23. Five days later, India were 23 for 3 on another difficult batting surface against Pakistan in Kolkata, chasing 118 in 18 overs. A second defeat would have crippled their campaign, but Kohli orchestrated a successful chase by scoring an unbeaten 55 off 37 balls.
"I was really disappointed after that loss. I went back to the room and thought about what needs to be done," Kohli told the BCCI website. "Tonight, we were in a similar situation in this game. But such games and situations just improve you as a cricketer and I look forward to challenges like these."
The ball turned prodigiously on a pitch that had been under covers for most of the day because of bad weather, and when the fast bowlers bowled cutters it gripped the pitch and did not come on to the bat. Shot-making was difficult and after Pakistan had laboured to 118, India's top order crumbled around Kohli.
"I told myself in the change room that I am going to back myself to play good cricketing shots," Kohli said. "I was confident that I needed to play with a straight bat so that the strike keeps rotating. I remain pretty calm. Luckily my heart rate was low when we lost three wickets, it could have shot up as it was a big game and a full stadium at Eden Gardens. I am just grateful I was able to do it.
"It is very important to assess the field and understand how much the ball is turning and gripping from the surface. Accordingly you pick out bowlers, where they are trying to bowl at you and try to get into the head of the bowler and make him bowl where you want him to bowl. That is the key. That is where intent counts."
On a pitch that had troubled the other batsmen, Kohli was in control of more than 90% of the deliveries he faced, using the depth of the crease and moving laterally to manoeuvre balls into gaps. While he steered, cut, flicked and drove through cover for boundaries, his only six came off a slog-sweep, a shot he doesn't usually play.
"People who have seen me closely know that I don't sweep the ball much unless the pitch is turning square," he told Star Sports after the game. "But when the need of the hour is to play the sweep you have to be good enough at this level to play any shot. If you can't then people are going to try and target you there, and you go down as a batsman. To be ahead of the bowlers you need to be able to play every shot."
Like he had done in the Asia Cup match against Pakistan, Kohli had a valuable partnership with Yuvraj Singh. They added 61 runs for the fourth wicket to all but decide the game before Yuvraj was dismissed for 24. "I told him that we had to build a partnership. It doesn't matter if we go at six runs an over till ten overs, it's fine," Kohli said. "As long as you stay in they will be under pressure because you can hit a six any time. I'm very happy that both games against Pakistan, in pressure situations, he stuck in. When he's in form it makes a huge difference."
When Kohli got to his half-century with a drive to long-off, his celebrations included a bow and a salute towards the stands, where Sachin Tendulkar was present. "I can't express the feeling. My brother is here as well and Sachin Tendulkar was up there in the stands. I have seen Sachin paaji do that for India for years together and seen how people shout for him. I have gotten a chance to do it in front of him and he is celebrating. I cannot explain that feeling as a youngster who has grown up playing cricket because of him. To be able to do it in front of him and give him happiness; I am very grateful for it and it is a very emotional moment."