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Virat Kohli "completely blown away" by Suryakumar Yadav's innings

The two batters discuss their game plan during their match-winning partnership against Hong Kong

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Virat Kohli was "completely blown away" by the innings Suryakumar Yadav played against Hong Kong on Wednesday, saying that he "changed the momentum of the game on a pitch that wasn't as easy as he made it look."
Kohli and Suryakumar scored contrasting half-centuries during an unbroken partnership of 98 off 42 balls for the third wicket. And it was only after Suryakumar came in with seven overs to go that India were able to accelerate and post a total of 192 for 2 in Dubai.
"SKY played an outstanding knock, a knock that I enjoyed thoroughly from the other end," Kohli said during a conversation with Suryakumar for "I've seen so many innings when we play in the IPL [against each other], or that being done to other teams, but this was my first experience of watching very closely. I was completely blown away. I honestly believe that the way you played today, if you can stay in that zone, you can literally change the complexion of the game against any team in the world."
India's innings was a tale of two halves. In the first, KL Rahul scored only 36 off 39 balls, his slowest T20I innings in which he's faced at least 30 deliveries, and while Kohli was not as rusty, he had to fight hard for his runs.
Kohli was on 33 when Suryakumar joined him in the middle and swept his first two balls to the deep square-leg boundary. He hit four fours and a six in his first ten deliveries to set the tone for a masterclass in 360-degree batting.
"When I was sitting inside, me and Rishabh [Pant] were speaking about how we could take game this ahead as the wicket was a little slow," Suryakumar said. "When I went into bat, I tried to just be myself and do what I love doing. It was a really simple plan: taking the first 10 balls, I wanted to hit three-four boundaries and when I got that, I just kept batting."
"I honestly believe that the way you played today, if you can stay in that zone, you can literally change the complexion of the game against any team in the world."
Virat Kohli in praise of Suryakumar Yadav
Suryakumar played scoops, sweeps, flicks and hit two stunning sixes over point to bring up his half-century off just 22 balls - his fastest in T20 internationals. He struck four sixes in the final over to finish unbeaten on 68 off 26 balls, while Kohli remained not out on 59 off 44. India scored 78 off the last five overs.
"At that moment, I knew I needed you there," Suryakumar said to Kohli. "That's why I told you that you just bat from one end, it'll be easy to cover up because I've seen you a lot of times, when you take 30-35 balls, the next 10 balls you bat with a strike rate of 200-250. It was important for me that you stay there so that I bat freely until the 20th over. And the same thing happened. I really enjoyed it."
After coming back from a 42-day break, Kohli reiterated how "mentally fresh" he was feeling at the moment. He had returned with an innings of 35 off 34 balls against Pakistan, and though his half-century against Hong Kong wasn't the most fluent innings, Kohli was able to accelerate at the end.
"My plan was simple, like in the last game," Kohli said. "I've come off a decent break, month and a half. Six weeks is a long time, especially at the international level when you get out of touch with the game, but I came mentally fresh. So I really enjoyed myself in the last game as well, against a quality attack. I kind of got the pace of the wicket, but I knew my job was to stabilise the innings and build a partnership with whoever I play with. And in between when the situation allows me to, take a risk and find a boundary every now and then.
"But again, when you [Suryakumar] came in, I told you I'm going to keep going but the moment you started and gave me a clear indication of how you're feeling, my role immediately changed to holding one end. As you said, you could go out and express yourself almost every ball. That is something I enjoy doing, so that even if god forbid you didn't get those runs, then I could take charge, or we have Rishabh [Pant] or in another game Hardik [Pandya], Dinesh [Karthik] or [Ravindra Jadeja] Jaddu.
"It was just applying whatever knowledge I have accumulated over the years for the benefit of the team. It was nice to get a couple of games where I felt good with my batting. For me, milestones and number of runs are irrelevant, it's how you feel when you bat, and I felt very good."
With wins in both their matches, India are the first team from Group A to qualify for the Super 4 stage of the Asia Cup.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo