“From a brash youngster, who toured Australia in 2011 to leading India to a Test series win in the same country would certainly do Kohli and his entire team a world of good”
Australia captain Tim Paine said that his team wanted to ensure that his counterpart Virat Kohli sweats it out for every run he made in the series. Going into the Test series, there was little doubt that Kohli held the key for India. It was Cheteshwar Pujara, who led the way with the bat at Adelaide, but at Perth, Kohli seems to have taken charge and is on the verge of completing yet another century on Australian soil. In the first Test, it was around Pujara that the entire team’s batting revolved, but in this Test, Kohli seems to have taken over that role and it could prove to be ominous signs for Australia. Considering the ease at which Kohli has scored runs over the last couple of years for India, Australia’s strategy this time around seems to be to cut down his runs, create pressure and trust your bowlers to get the wicket. It might have worked previously, but Kohli’s appetite for daddy hundreds keeps him going.
First, it was it was patient 74-run stand with Pujara, followed by an unbeaten 90-run stand with Ajinkya Rahane. Kohli amidst all this has stood like a rock at the other end, negotiating every possible sort of delivery and is perhaps already looking forward to taking strike against the lightening speedsters on Day Three – A day that could make or break for both teams. More the Kohli-Rahane partnership flourishes, lesser the chances of Australia to take a decent first innings lead. India, on the other hand, will want to wipe off the deficit and register a small lead.
With Rahane failing to score a century for over 16 months now, it will not be naive to say that a lot rests on the shoulders of Kohli. Kohli needs to be India’s architect at least in this innings if they are to get a substantial lead. While India have the inexperience of Hanuma Vihari and Rishabh Pant to come in next, Kohli and Rahane will have to do the bulk of the scoring. Like he has done many times, Kohli will once again have to be the central figure around whom the entire batting unit rotates. We have seen Pujara or even Rahane at times deliver in such a fashion in the past, but as far as this innings goes, it looks as though it will be Kohli, who will be entrusted to deliver.
It was the same old story for India – their openers yet again failed to put runs on the board, which meant that the middle-order had to do a bit of damage control. After just 31 deliveries into the Indian innings, the team had Pujara and Kohli at the crease. India needed a big innings from two of their most experienced batsmen. The Australia quicks had their tail up and were steaming in. Another wicket at that point would have possibly seen India sink into a deep hole, but they withstood the storm and stood tall. Kohli was off the blocks very quickly. His three fours off Josh Hazlewood’s fifth over was a sign that he was already seeing it like a football.
It was important not to throw it away and with the pitch offering extra bounce and some swing, Kohli and Pujara decided to dig deep and not play any silly shots. There was still plenty of time left in the match. There was no need to play any rash shots. It then became a question of temperament, which both the batsmen have aplenty. Knocking the ball away for singles and showing the good deliveries their due respect was the mantra both of them followed.
After those triple boundaries off Hazlewood, it took India 22 overs to get a boundary, this time Kohli driving Nathan Lyon through extra-cover. But the duo had successfully negotiated the bowling till tea without any further damage. The final session was a crucial one for both teams.
Once Pujara was dismissed, Rahane, who played a brilliant knock at Adelaide, needed to deliver once again. He started going after the bowlers right away – putting away the short balls, clipping the ball on middle and driving through the covers and straight down the ground as well. Rahane attacked the seamers more and was more circumspect against the off-spin of Lyon. Pat Cummins was the only bowler to pose any question to Kohli, but he looked comfortable against the other bowlers and with Rahane looking in good form, all he needed to do was continue the way he was batting.
It is no secret that Kohli has been India’s star with the bat on the tour of South Africa and England. He is just continuing from where he left off. While India failed to win any series in those two countries, having gone 1-0 up in Australia, they find themselves with a great opportunity to win in Australia – where they have previously won just 6 Tests. Kohli being the most consistent performer for India over the last couple of years will leave no stone unturned to end the Perth Test with a win and retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. He has scored more than 2,500 international runs for the third consecutive year and India have tasted a lot of success in the limited-overs, however, a big Test series win, especially away from home, still evades India.
From a brash youngster, who toured Australia in 2011 to leading India to a Test series win in the same country would certainly do Kohli and his entire team a world of good.