Without Kohli, India would have been staring at an early World T20 exit

india cricket

 

Before the deciding Group Two match between India and Australia, Mitchell Johnson mocked Virat Kohli on social media.

Linking his tweet to an article in which the host nation’s talisman had talked about his ability to thrive in pressure-cooker situations, the former Aussie international suggested that Kohli didn’t have the bottle for the big occasion.

Not for the first time, it was Johnson who got it wrong.

Kohli has been simply magnificent for India so far in this flash-bang, thank-you-mam spectacular on the sub-continent.

Twice faced with tricky run chases – first against Pakistan and then Australia – the 27-year-old mixed elegance, stubbornness and a hint of tomfoolery to hack his country out of the mire and into the semi-finals.

If his 55 from 37 balls in the successful pursuit of Pakistan’s 118-5 was impressive, the awesome 82 not out from 51 to see off the Aussies was tournament-defining.

In both situations, Kohli was faced with a stuttering, spluttering run chase and refused to buckle – unlike so many of his teammates. He took luck out of the game, which in Twenty20 is no mean feat.

In four group games, he is the only member of the hosts’ side to fulfil his potential.

Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have swung like trainee lumberjacks, the spin twins of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have jogged through their overs, Suresh Raina has cut the forlorn figure of a man whose international days are numbered and the Jasprit Bumrah-Ashish Nehra fast-bowling axis has been efficient more than effective.

Even MS Dhoni has been peripheral. Sure, the captain thwacked the winning runs against Australia and has contributed the odd 15 or 20 here and there but he’s had to rely on Kohli to see his side through.

With the exception of a stunning leg-side stumping against Bangladesh, his victim snared with a self-awareness and grace which illustrated in high definition why Dhoni remains one of the very best glovemen in international cricket, there have been far too few dramatics from one of the event’s headline acts.

The India skipper has been quiet. Uncharacteristically so. His on-field leadership has been hushed, his field placings methodical rather than inventive. He’s not been off-colour but he’s certainly been uninspiring. Well, as uninspiring as a national idol can be at any given moment.

Instead, his lieutenant has stolen the show. Kohli’s average batting second in T20s is now a remarkable 91.4 – a full 36 higher than any other player in the history of the format. His batting average in general is a ludicrous 55.42, in a game where the vast majority of batsman have to rely on a little bit of good fortune to get by.

And all this at a strike rate of almost 140 runs per 100 balls.

He came into the World T20 with a reputation to protect. He’s enhanced it. And in so doing, this combative and colourful son of Delhi has kept a billion fans’ hopes alive.

That’s far more powerful than any tweet.