India v Pakistan, World T20 2016, Group 2, Kolkata March 20, 2016

I look forward to challenges like these - Kohli

ESPNcricinfo staff

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Dravid: Kohli was the difference between the teams

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."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Paul on March 21, 2016, 20:29 GMT

    Wouldn't be surprised if he surpasses Tendulkar when it's all said and done.

  • Lokesh on March 21, 2016, 6:41 GMT

    Always loved watching Kohli's interviews. He is politically correct and yet doesn't shy away from making his point. Few weeks back in Australia's tour there was a brief casual interview of him by Glenn Maxwell and in that interview too, he ticked all the right boxes. He carries the swag that he displays on-field off the field too, that is such a rarity amongst Indian cricketers.

    BTW his gesture to Sachin after his half century was really heart-warming. Keep the tri-colour flying high buddy, hope to see many more such innings from you!

  • Narsi on March 21, 2016, 2:39 GMT

    What i really dont want is Team India being dependent only on Kholi.. we dont another Sachin.. in Sachin days i used to switch tv off as he got out. After all cricket is a team game

  • John on March 21, 2016, 0:59 GMT

    Kohl Is an excellent batsman who is playing well at the moment, but in this game of cricket every batsman will be going through a few bad innings. Against New Zealand there was an unexpected batting collapse, so India needs consistency in its batting performance.

    There is a lot of criticism about Dhoni's captaincy, but a captain cannot be blamed for everything that happens in cricket. The captain has a small part to play in the selection. The board of selectors make the final decision even though the captain has plenty of influence. The skill of a captain comes into play mainly when the team is fielding. The bowling strategy and field placement against each batsman varies according to the strengths and weaknesses of each batsmen. While the side is batting, it is like playing tennis. Each batsman is on his own, and will have to go out and face the bowlers and must capable of making quick decisions on his own in a split second.

  • Valavan on March 20, 2016, 21:25 GMT

    Kohli will get such challenges when he plays Test match in England especially in Leeds, manchester and Durham, where the green tinge will be for all 5 days. Just the matter if he adapt or not.

  • Sarang on March 20, 2016, 20:43 GMT

    Fantastic attitude is the key for Kohli's continued success. Mind you, it was this attitude which went a little missing during Eng's 2014 tour. Had he curbed down a bit, played test matches like tests by leaving lot of balls, he wouldn't have been out cheaply there. Good bowlers can still get anybody out on such green,wet pitches but good batsmen like Kohli find ways. Anyway, he had the right mindset to keep improving, keep asking for more challenges, stay ahead of the curve but still stay humble. Joe Root failed miserably in Aus 5-0 whitewash but came back better and he is another good learner. So is Kane Williamson.

  • cricfan24202540 on March 20, 2016, 20:17 GMT

    Can't describe how lucky india were to have an in-form Kohli.

  • Usman on March 20, 2016, 19:27 GMT

    kohli's greatest challenge will be against bangladesh , who are very strong right now

  • Ashok on March 20, 2016, 19:08 GMT

    Kohli led India out of the Lion's den & kept India's World cup hopes flying high. What an innings amongst the irresponsible batting of Dhawan & Raina which put India on the brink of defeat. A well planned & well executed inning by both Kohli & Yuvraj carried India out of danger. But it was sheer mental coolness under pressure which prevailed at the end. Kohli played a gem of an innings which will go down as one of the best. India needs a specialist bat @#4. Will Dhoni wake up & do the right thing? Other aspect of Dhoni which he justified in his own way of not using the spinners on a wkt. suited for the spinners. Ashwin, Jadeja, Raina, Yuvraj bowled just 6 overs between them on a so called "Turner"! Such action do not justify Dhoni's defence of poor handling of bowling talent. NZ was fearless in playing with 3 spinners against India, dropping their top pacers. This bold move toppled India! No Risk No Gains.

  • RAI on March 20, 2016, 18:44 GMT

    sure Kholi knock was treat to watch but i am really surprised now a days other then kholi & Dhoni all batsman are below average performer where Kholi fail India loose. can some one share the experience regarding pitch. we always seen over the years when ever raining cloudy ball always help to seamers and swing come to play but here from start EXTRA ordinary turn for spinners with bounce on a wicket which was almost a flat good batting surface in last few days. instead of seam swing for fast ballers why rainy weather make it square spin track it was rain or something else...... but sorry to say it was not a good pitch at all for this format. Kholi & Pitch win at end but important is we are still ahead on point table ;)

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