Virat Kohli has hailed Kedar Jadhav's 76-ball 120 as an "outstanding" effort and one of the "best calculative innings" he has seen, after India aced a tall chase in his first match as full-time ODI captain. Kohli himself made a 105-ball 122 to fire up India's pursuit of 351, but was for once outscored and overshadowed in a partnership.
"I think it was outstanding, just to have another guy that was willing to believe we can win from any situation was such a boost for me as well. If you want to give one man credit, it is Kedar Jadhav," Kohli said after the match. "They had four quick bowlers and he really tackled all of them really well. He put a lot of pressure on the spinners so they couldn't come back into the game. I couldn't believe some of the shots he played. He told me it was instinctive, but such was his talent."
When Jadhav joined Kohli in the 12th over, India were four down for 63 and had lost Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni. But Jadhav's shot-making instantly took the pressure off Kohli - he was unruffled by the short balls and executed the pull, one of his most productive shots, effortlessly, and countered the spinners with lofted drives. With Kohli at the other end, there were plenty of quick singles and doubles during their 200-run alliance in just 147 balls. Kohli called it one of the best partnerships he had been involved in.
"Striking at 150 was outstanding and all clean shots; he didn't slog the ball once," Kohli said in praise. "He was brilliant and that's why we back him to play at No. 6. I think it was one of the best partnerships I've been part of. I think the best thing that came out was to counter-attack. I don't think any of the wickets we lost was because of good balls; we committed errors.
"Kedar and I had a gut feel. We thought if we get the score past 150-160 together still with four down, we had a great chance. The pitch was even better to bat on in the second innings. The ball travels very fast here. We could hit sixes to put that pressure every now and then on the opposition. We chased 350 a couple of times before but not from 63 for 4. This is something really special and will stay with me for a long time."
Jadhav was battling with cramps as he neared his hundred. He was also fighting inner demons: that he did not convert a similar start against New Zealand in Delhi, where India fell seven runs short of the target of 243 after Jadhav fell for a 37-ball 41. Kohli said he had to push Jadhav to not let physical or mental exertion affect his focus.
"I'm glad I was out there with him, to keep pushing him," he said. "He was disappointed in the last series against New Zealand when he couldn't get us across the line. Then he was again playing really well. I told him that the best place you can learn is out there in the middle. No point sitting outside and thinking what you could have done. So just push yourself a little more and you will understand how to do it again and again.
"You understand when a guy is trying to slog the ball or is playing good cricket - you don't necessarily need to say too much at that stage and confuse him. Only when he was getting cramps, he was thinking about that. I told him to get the focus back on the game and take his mind off it (cramps)."
Kohli used Jadhav's example to suggest that limited international experience wasn't necessarily a deterrent to handling high-pressure chases. "I think one thing we keep talking in the change room is the number of games doesn't matter, it's how you use your brain in a tough situation in the middle," he said. "We all are good enough to hit the ball, it's still fours and sixes. If you think too much on the lines of 'I don't know how to do this so I'm not sure If I can do this' compared to just watch the ball and play it with the technique you know best and try to win the game from any situation, you become a better play than anyone else.
"There is no hard-and-fast rule of understanding the game over a number of games. You can get a great understanding of the game after 10 one-dayers; it doesn't have to be 60, 70, 80. The sooner you learn the team benefits from it. This was another case of the same thing: all the 11 guys believing that we can win from any situation.
"When we went back in we got to know that five-six guys didn't move from their position for the whole time me and Kedar were batting. That's the kind of belief we have in the change room that yes we might be able to achieve something special today. That's the only way you can win in team sport."
Kohli also played his share of stunning shots on Sunday night. One that stood out was an extraordinary high-elbowed, back-foot loft, in the 34th over off Chris Woakes, that went over the ropes on the leg side. Kohli admitted he had surprised himself with shots like that from time to time. "I can recall many moments when I felt like 'I didn't do this, I don't know how it got executed' but I've always spoken to all the guys on the same thing - If you are focused on the goal, the target you want to achieve, you don't necessarily need to think too much about the game - in terms of your personal runs or where you stand at the game," he said.
"If you're thinking team, team, team all the time, you end up playing shots or doing things you don't quite believe before achieving them. When you are in momentum, you're able to play the kind of shots that, if you're in pressure, you won't be able to play. It's as simple as that."
Kohli was not oblivious to his team's profligate bowling in the back-end that saw 115 runs conceded in the last 10 overs. "There was a bit of consistency issue in the last 15 overs as bowlers," he said. "We had done well up to the first 35 overs, but were a little wayward in the last 15. We will address it and try to improve in the next game."