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Ind vs Pak – T20 World Cup 2022 – Virat Kohli

He may have been “lost for words” at the end of an epic game, but Virat Kohli was confident that his unbeaten 82-of-53 against Pakistan in the MCG was the best T20 innings of his career, “due to the size of the game and what the situation was”.

From 31 for 4 in a 160 chase on a snappy pitch, Kohli made a snappy comeback with Hardik Pandya, taking 113 runs for the fifth wicket. Kohli was front right and center to the dramatic last left, who had two wickets, a no-ball for pitch, a walk, a six – from Kohli, who else! – and fights between the Pakistani players and the umpires, before R Ashwin hit the winning run of the final ball.

“It’s a surreal atmosphere,” Kohli told his former India coach Ravi Shastri on Star Sports after the game. “I honestly have no words for it. I have no idea how that happened.”

“I kind of pumped myself up to get two sixes when we needed 28 out of eight and that became 16 out of six”

Virat Kohlic

‘A lot of praise for Hardik’
The task seemed “impossible” at one point, Kohli admitted. Midway through the chase, India needed 115 from 60 balls. Kohli was on 12 out of 21 and later admitted he “felt a lot of pressure”. It was Hardik, Kohli said, who changed the mood as soon as he came to bat.

“I think Hardik should be given a lot of credit,” Kohli said. “Because he came in and he was very, very positive. He kept telling me, you know, just keep hitting the ball, just keep pushing the holes ‘Let’s get deep into the game, it can happen, we can do it. Honestly, I felt a lot of pressure at that stage. Because I’ve been in these situations quite a few times. So I understand that as a senior player, guys play so long, a lot of expectations, a lot of responsibility for you.

“But when he (Hardik) came in and he had some boundaries, I opened up a little bit. It’s T20 cricket at the end of the day, we have to push boundaries, you have to go to the bowlers. But that partnership – when it came turned 100 we didn’t even realize because we just enjoyed enjoying that pressure together and kept talking, running fast and we kept looking at their body language and we knew it would change at some point it became free late to be honest. I would have liked to have done it sooner, but then we wouldn’t have been able to afford any more wickets at that point.”

India needed 54 from the last four overs and it looked like Pakistan had an advantage. Only one left was left spinner Mohammad Nawaz, and he was the weak link in the attack. But even before Nawaz came on, Kohli brought India back into the game with consecutive sixes from the last two balls of the 19th over, bowled by Pakistan’s top bowler, Haris Rauf.

“I think when Shaheen [Shah Afridi] thrown from the end of the pavilion (18th left), then I spoke to Hardik that we should take him out,” Kohli said. “And then the conversation was easy. He (Hardik) said that Nawaz should throw one. So I told him that if I can take out Harris, they’ll freak out because he was their main bowler. So I kind of pumped myself up to get two sixes when we needed 28 out of eight and that turned into 16 out of six.”

The two sixes against Rauf — one on the floor and the other over the fine leg — were instinctive, Kohli said. “It’s just instinctive, I saw the ball and I told myself to just keep quiet. The one at long-on was unexpected. It was a slower ball from behind. And the next I just swung my bat through the line of the ball and it flew over the fine leg. Now that I’m standing here, I just feel like it was meant to be. It’s a very, very special moment.”

Master of the Pursuit
Kohli earned the nickname ‘King Kohli’ due to his ability to follow the chase perfectly in ODIs. Tonight was the 18th time in his T20I career that Kohli had gone undefeated in a chase, and India has won every time.

“I have to be there at the end, that’s a simple statistic,” Kohli said with a laugh. “Look, I love these situations. I love having a score on the board because it allows you to understand the conditions, understand the dimensions of the ground, understand the bowling attack and then know exactly what to do at what stage.

“A lot of people talk about pressure when hunting. For me it’s clarity. You know exactly what you have on the board, and you just have to have it. So it’s a difference of perspective, which has always helped me. And I like these challenges, I’m very proud of them.These are the kind of games you play cricket for.After 14-15 years, you need challenges like this to wake you up again and be like, you know, let’s go again. “

That clarity of thought was evident when Kohli switched his bat immediately after Rauf’s third over during the middle phase of the chase. Kohli said that Rauf, Afridi and Naseem Shah were all bowling extremely fast and so he needed a lighter bat. “When the situation was where you had to hit the big one, I changed my bat, I played with a lighter bat because all three were bowling 90mph plus. I was like, just swing through the line on the ball. And I kept believing in myself. Those two shots at Haris Rauf were the time I was talking to myself – “you to have to hit those sixes here, otherwise there’s no chance, we’re going to win this match.” And I said to Hardik if we can go to him (Rauf), and if he goes over for a big one, they’re going to panic a lot . And that’s exactly what happened.”

Seizing the moment is Kohli’s other great strength. By the time Nawaz made it to the final of the match, Kohli knew Pakistan had lost heart as they experimented with the field without a clear plan. But Kohli emphasized a bigger factor: the advantage of a set batter who plays deep, despite the recent debate over the role of an anchor in T20 cricket.

“All these things look great at the end (laughs). To be honest, when I was 12 out of 21, I thought, I’m really screwing this game, I’m not eyeing the ball. But then if you experience , then you understand the value of hitting deep. That’s always been my role for India, to hit 16-17 overs. Because I know I can do a lot of power-hitting in the bottom half of the innings. And that’s always been my strength. I can also strike at 250-300, when I get really confident and there’s only one guy under pressure and that’s the bowler. So I always try to get into that situation where I don’t feel any pressure. I say not that I didn’t feel any pressure today but then you give us a platform to then say you know what it’s their game to lose now and it was almost their game to lose we just swung through the line of the ball and we knew when Nawaz threw that no-ball too I knew and with the goalkeeper back there you know this is our moment And we have to ka pitify.”

“Higher than” Mohali 2016

Kohli has played some of his best innings, especially in Test cricket, in Australia and he said it was “one of the best nights” of his life.

When asked to rank the innings against Pakistan at the MCG, Kohli put it ahead of his previous favorite against Australia in Mohali at the 2016 T20 World Cup who also happened to be an unbeaten 82 with India in trouble in a chase of 161.

“Until today I’ve always said that Mohali was my best innings, against Australia: I got 82 out of 52 (51). Today I got 82 out of 53. So it’s exactly the same innings, but I think I’ll count this one higher today … because of the size of the game and what the situation was.”

Kohli acknowledged the audience’s contribution of over 90,000 to the occasion, calling it “phenomenal”. “You have supported me, shown me so much love and support in all those months when I was going through a little bit, you continued to support me. And I am very grateful for your support. Thank you.”

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo

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