Virat Kohli, who struck his third century of IPL 2016, against Gujarat Lions in Bangalore on Saturday, said that better belief in his ability to clear the boundary and pick gaps has been at the forefront of his consistency in Twenty20 cricket.
Kohli blasted 109 off just 55 balls in Royal Challengers Bangalore's 144-run rout of Lions at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. While the numbers were staggering, it was the manner in which he reached his century that left onlookers stunned. Until the start of the 18th over, Kohli had scored a sedate half-century - 52 off 41 balls - and played second fiddle to a marauding AB de Villiers, before launching a sensational assault in the final three overs. It took the Royal Challengers captain just another 12 balls to steamroll from 52 to 103.
"I see that they [teams] have plans outside the off stump for me and they keep two fielders on the boundary straight away. They want me to do something stupid. At that point, you need to understand that they want you out. They would rather not have you batting on 15 off 20 balls because they know that once you get in you will cash in later," Kohli told iplt20.com. "But I have come to terms with that. I don't mind playing run-a-ball for the first 20-25 balls because I know that I can get 40-45 runs in the next 15 balls. Now I believe more in my ability to hit sixes or pick gaps for boundaries in the final overs."
Kohli switched gears with 13 runs off the first four balls of the 18th over, bowled by Dwayne Bravo, but it was in the next over, against Shivil Kaushik, that he went beserk, launching the chinaman bowler for four sixes and a four. "When the ball is turning a bit, he (the bowler) will start to bowl back of length and won't give you anything up because he knows that you can step out and hit him for a six - it was something that Jadeja was doing today," Kohli explained. "That's when you need to stay on the backfoot.
"But when the chinaman bowler (Kaushik) came in later on, I knew he was not going to have a lot of control with his length. So I was ready on the front foot. But I didn't step out because I didn't want to give him a chance to adjust and bowl back of length and turn the ball. If there is no turn in the pitch, even if it's a flat ball, I would go for a six straight over the bowler's head or over covers. Otherwise I try to stay as still as possible."
Kohli has had a remarkable 2016 in the shortest format and has taken the IPL by storm, crunching 677 runs in 11 matches at 75.22 and striking at 148.14. But one of the most remarkable and constant aspects of his batting has been the absence of unorthodoxy. "It [persisting with his methods] is a conscious effort, to be very honest. It is more like 'Eat, sleep, train, repeat'. If you want to be consistent, you need to be boring with your training, your food and your batting habits," Kohli said.
"You cannot take the sport for granted. During the last match [against Mumbai Indians] I told Dan [Daniel Vettori, the Royal Challengers head coach] that I felt like I could hit every ball of the first over from Tim Southee for a six. But I stopped myself because I don't want to disrespect the sport. I want to build my innings in the same way every time I go in to bat. Sometimes I will get out, like I did in the last game. But as long as I know that I wasn't getting ahead of myself, I am okay. Once you start taking the sport and your form for granted, a bad patch comes in and it makes you chase after every single run."
Kohli and de Villiers shattered several records in their 229-run partnership - the highest in T20 history. The two have complemented each other well, run hard between the wickets and matched each other stroke for stroke, making Royal Challengers one of the more destructive batting sides in the competition. "There doesn't have to be any conversation when batting with AB. More so because we think very alike about how we want to bat and approach an innings. All we do is keep giving each other confidence and assuring each other," Kohli said.