'My best T20 innings' - Kohli
Virat Kohli has rated his matchwinning, unbeaten 72 against South Africa in the World T20 semi-final as his best T20 innings considering the importance of the match. While Kohli said the Indian dressing room was calm at the innings break, he added that there was pressure during the chase, but he did not want to let South Africa know that.
"Depending on the importance of the match, yes, you can say it is my best T20 innings," Kohli said. "But I have struck the ball better in T20s in other games. I have also timed the ball better than I did today and have managed to score five or six boundaries very fast. Today it was difficult as I had to work hard for the knock. But as per the importance of the game, this knock tops it.
"I wanted to play an important knock when the team had entered the semis. I was in good form, so I though it is better that I stay till the end. In T20, it is very important that a batsman stays till the end. It's not like there was no pressure. It wasn't easy. Pressure was there. But it is important that you don't show it to the opponents. They are a world-class attack and the slightest mistake against them can cost you. I just wanted to stay calm and was keen to back myself."
Kohli's reputation as a reliable chaser continues to grow. When asked how he adapted while batting second in T20s compared to one-dayers, Kohli said his calculations became quicker, and also credited the start given by Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane in this match. "It's all about analyzing how many runs have been scored before I walk in to bat and what rate we are going at. Today we got off to a flying start, we were going at 10 runs an over in the first three. It gave me time to settle myself in. If we were six runs an over, I could have gone for my strokes and I probably could have got out. People don't realise the importance of those small starts but I think the way Rohit and Ajinkya batted initially, it set the platform perfectly for us, it put the pressure right back on South Africa and it allowed me to play myself in and stick to my plans.
"It's very difficult to break it down in a T20 game because as I said, rush of blood, plus it is a shorter format. Those calculations come down, they become smaller, become quicker. You need to think really quick, when to score, when to defend. I think it is all about how many their main bowlers have bowled or how many overs the part-timers are going to bowl, how many runs you need to score off the part-timers and the main bowlers. It's all about when I walk in to bat, I look at the score board, what the situation is like and talk to my partner, what we can do from there on."
Kohli scored 40 of his 72 runs in singles and twos, and had only three dots. He went as far as saying that a single was as important as a six in this format. "That's something I always believe. I was on 20 not out off 17 balls (17 off 16 actually) without hitting a boundary. If you can do that and the opposition knows if I can get two boundaries in between, my strike rate goes up to 150, around that. It is very important to keep rotating the strike which, in a rush of blood, you always keep looking for boundaries. But as long as you keep rotating the strike and not lose wickets at the same time, the opposition captain has to think about a lot of things after that because if you can place the ball for two runs thrice in an over and the sixth ball goes for a boundary, it is a brilliant over for you. So I think it's very important to know the importance of singles and doubles in T20 cricket as well."
South Africa held back Dale Steyn for the death but India were able to take 22 off his second and third overs. Kohli said it was crucial to put pressure on the leader of the attack.
"Against a quality bowling attack, you need to be on top. It's important to put pressure on a world-class bowler like Dale. That's why the key is to score off the other bowlers so that he doesn't have too many runs to defend. That's why if you take six or seven runs off him, when he comes to pick wickets, it's more frustrating for the opposition. The plan was to not give him wickets. I think we ended up scoring 11 an over off him and that wasn't the plan at all. Once you start frustrating the opposition and not allow them to stick to their plans, the game starts falling in your way and that's what we decided to do."
MS Dhoni played out a dot ball in the penultimate over to allow Kohli the chance to hit the winning runs. Kohli was thankful to the captain for the opportunity. "Yes, he gave me a chance. I had told him 'aap khatam karo, lekin unhone bola is match mein main tujhe aur kuch nahin de sakta. Tuney acchi batting kari hai, to ye mera gift hai tere liye' (I told him, you finish it. But he said, I cannot give you anything else in this game. You have batted well, so this is my gift for you).
"I said 'that's very kind of you' and I accepted it. Hitting the winning runs is a wonderful feeling and I am grateful to him for allowing me the opportunity to hit them."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo