West Indies v India, 5th ODI, Kingston July 6, 2017

Kohli savours triumph over short ball

ESPNcricinfo staff
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Plan was to play fewer dot balls - Kohli

After two low scores, and perhaps more pertinently two similar dismissals, it had seemed like West Indies were zeroing in on a weakness in Virat Kohli's game. The Indian captain fell for 3 and 11 in North Sound, fending and hooking at short balls in an attempt to take the attack to the opposition before he was settled. Such tactics might well succeed on good pitches but not so much on the slow tracks of the Caribbean where the ball does not always come onto the bat.

In Kingston too, Kohli was welcomed to the crease with a few bouncers, but the conviction not to get out in the same tame manner for a third successive time helped him make his 28th ODI century - an unbeaten 111 to seal India's chase of 206 and the series 3-1.

Kohli's celebration - a resounding roar heard around Sabina Park - as he secured his 18th hundred in a chase, surpassing Sachin Tendulkar's record, was an expression of joy at overcoming a challenge.

"I don't like to get out in similar fashion more often," he said at the post-match press conference. "The reason you succeed at international cricket is that you have to stretch the gap between your mistakes and I think a couple of mistakes from me, getting out in the same manner is something that I don't really like.

"So it was more of being a little strict on myself and getting the team across the line, which I knew the victory was inevitable when I got the hundred and it was all about the satisfaction of actually planning the innings out and executing it well and that always feels nice and something that I like to be hard on myself, not getting out in the same manner too many times"

So how did he go about addressing this perceived weakness? Practice in the nets? Meditation to control those natural instincts that were leading him astray? Soft, soothing music?

As it turned out, the key to Kohli returning to his run-machine ways was quiet contemplation. Before the match, he had simply told himself to avoid the bouncers while getting his eye in and attack them only after "reaching 30 or 40".

"I think the planning starts from your room. You need to sit down and think positively about the shots you want to play. If there's a bit of hesitation, then you take the route of leaving the ball on one particular shot. But if you get into a clear mindset back again and give yourself targets - after reaching 30 or 40, I'm going to start pulling the ball or I'm going to start taking on the short ball and targets become easier. You have a clearer picture as to when to take on that particular shot.

"For that you need to build your mindset first, when you're sitting all by yourself. If you don't have a clear mind then about a particular shot, then you'll find it difficult executing it in the game no matter how many times you practice it. You first need to have a positive intent, then you practice and then you can execute it in the game That's what I feel and that's the sort of pattern that I follow."

Virat Kohli told himself to play the pull shot only after 'scoring 30 or 40 runs' © AFP

Where did this innings rank then, if it was the culmination of a plan coming together?

"When you are not too happy with how you are getting out and then you end up convincingly scoring a century and remaining not out and taking the team across the line, I think it's a complete package," Kohli said.

"For a batsman you can't have an ideal scenario, when you have a chanceless knock as well, you haven't given any half-chances either. From that point of view, I felt it was a complete knock from a personal point of view and for the team as well.

"But it's difficult to rate centuries. I would say the last one [against England] was still more special because the total was more massive and we were 63 for 4. In hindsight, when you look at those things, you understand the importance of those knocks. Maybe the 49 in Bangladesh against Pakistan [in the Asia Cup T20 2016] was the best I've played in the last couple of years. It was only 49, it wasn't even 50, so I think the quality of the knock, you can think of it only later, when you play in different conditions when you understand how difficult the previous conditions were."

While a series victory - India's seventh on the trot in bilaterals against West Indies - was cause to celebrate, there was a slight issue to address as well.

The visitors' only loss came while chasing a meager target of 190, despite MS Dhoni, one of the best finishers in ODIs, being at the crease for the better part of 50 overs. Kohli was asked if he was troubled by his wicketkeeper batsman's form after an innings of 54 off 114 balls and he said, "I think we get too impatient after just one game or one know. That can happen to anyone. Any batsman can struggle and any batsman can get stuck on the crease. Even if you're in top form, it can happen to you, so I don't think there's any issues, because if you see the knocks around it, he's been striking the ball really well and the strike-rate is close to 100 if not over 100. So not bothered with anything at all.

"I think it was only the last game where he couldn't rotate strike. Before that he got a brilliant 70 or 80 not out, in the Champions Trophy as well, against Sri Lanka, he played a brilliant knock, and in the first game as well, he played a brilliant knock, when it wasn't rained out and we won the game. He's striking the ball beautifully. You don't need to tell him anything in terms of how to play a situation or how to build an innings."

Finally, from the outside, this five-match ODI series against the ninth-ranked team was seen as a chance India might capitalise on to blood new players and perhaps assess the existing ones in more senior roles. But Kohli defended the lack of experimentation saying, "you can't take any series lightly.

"You can't make a Hardik [Pandya] or Kedar [Jadhav] bat at No. 3 and 4 and make your top-order batsman bat lower down. It's still international cricket and you have to be respectful towards oppositions and whatever games that you play and its very important to understand what works for you as a team and you've got to keep sticking to it. We keep giving them confidence and both guys are very eager to make dents, which they have in the past, and we're very confident of their abilities and we're actually delighted to have found two lower order batsmen who can play that explosive cricket.

"Kedar's knock, if you saw in that low-scoring game the other day, he made the difference when he came in the end, and Hardik's knock in the Champions Trophy final and in the first game as well. So these guys can play impact innings for you. That won't happen every now and then because of the strength we have in our batting. When they do get an opportunity, as I said they've been waiting for a while, they will get their opportunities, ideally we wouldn't want them to get many opportunities early, but with 10-15 overs to go, I'm sure they'll come up with the goods."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Gaurav Sethi on July 8, 2017, 9:43 GMT

    Rahane is no world cup material. He is meek, 7unreliable and very very overrated

  • Gaurav Sethi on July 8, 2017, 9:41 GMT

    If he had problems with short balls he would have never got those many runs in Australia

  • Prem on July 8, 2017, 1:09 GMT

    Kohli's personal standards have dropped if he delights against getting a hundred against the 9th rank West Indies. Next stop Zimbabwe.

  • Gajapathy on July 7, 2017, 20:17 GMT

    Kohli said Dhoni has" been striking the ba ll really well and the strike-rate is close to 100 if not over 100" The captain doesn't even know Dhoni was striking at 71.62 in this series! What a captain!

  • Rajeev on July 7, 2017, 15:44 GMT

    India need to plan without Dhoni and Yuvi (as suggested by Dravid too), they were both fantastic one day players in their prime and should hang their boots. Manish Pandey should come at number 4 and Kedar at 5. It is really surprising Pant did not get any game here as he is bright prospect. If we are looking future Karthik international career is also over. If we pick top batsman are - Kohli, Rohit, Shikhar, Rahul, Rahane, Kedar, Manish and Pant (WK too). Ashwin bowls negative line on limited over matches and should play Tests only. Kuldeep is fantastic bowler for tests as well as one day games. Fast bowling Bhuvi, Shami, Umesh and nned to look for one left hand fast bowler to give variety to attack.

  • ram4fr9677970 on July 7, 2017, 15:01 GMT

    Kholi need to plan without dhoni. then only he can achive success. everyone knows what dhoni done to Dravid and ganguly when he taken over ODI captaincy. Kholi should not give importance to his personal friends like Dawan, Yuvi etc. otherwise he will lose ODI captaincy soon?.

  • Mohit on July 7, 2017, 14:28 GMT

    If Kohli thinks that Dhoni is a better batsman than Kedar Jadhav, he is out of his mind. And I don't even think Jadhav should be in our one day team!

  • persev1507162 on July 7, 2017, 13:54 GMT

    THERIPPER, you are right, Kohli will not change his defensive style, since as a captain, he has been moulded by Dhoni. Even Kumble (yes, Kumble with his aggressive front) had a part to play in that, with Kohli immediately having to discard his attacking 5-bowler theory for the home season, and play only 4 specialist bowlers.

    But to say that Rahane and Rohit are definitely better captains, is taking it a bit too far. Rohit has simply led a better team to success, that does not mean he leads better overall. Rahane's sample size is too small to call a verdict on him.

    A change in captaincy is probably warranted, but i am sure that whoever is appointed will turn defensive immediately due to Dhoni's influence. Dhoni's methods brought him a lot of success, and people always try to imitate that. I am sure that if (that is a big IF) Rahane/Rohit is made captain in a format, after some time, you will come back and say that they are also "too defensive".

  • persev1507162 on July 7, 2017, 13:45 GMT

    CRICFAN7988415510, that is a good argument there. We need to blood youngsters in the team now, and this series was a good chance fluffed. India would have never discovered the definition of explosive opening, had Sehwag kept batting at number 6 like his initial days. Similarly we will never discover how good Pant is, until he is tried at least once. I am a big big Yuvi fan, but i keep saying this again and again, Yuvi needs to go solely for his fielding. May be with Pant in, we can have Dhoni grooming him on the job, and providing a couple of part-time dibbly-dobbly overs as well.

  • aishan3034774 on July 7, 2017, 12:54 GMT

    Virat played the under 19 world cup in 2008 and almost immediately got into ODI side. He was lucky as no one told him that he is not really a finished product and should wait for his chance or that it's still International Cricket and you should be respectful towards the opposition. Lucky for us he was persisted with inspite of initial failures and look where he is now. Even Jadeja got in the team in 2009. So, why we keep on resisting young blood? Cannot we get Pant for ODIs? If he is a successful with the bat, still i think Dhoni can walk in the team as a specialist wicket keeper and play the world cup. The ODI game is now changing fast and we need players who can score runs ar about 150 strike rate. Scoring 300 runs doesn't really mean winning. Like it happened in CT during Srilanka;s match. Old legs are not going to help. Scoring slowly during first 30 overs also won't really help. Giving experience to Pant and others like him now would help them during the World Cup in 2019.

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