More than the number of runs and the value of Virat Kohli’s contributions in this T20 World Cup for India, it is the return of his free-flowing self with the willow that stood out.
That he has broken the shackles in this World Cup after a few understated years – to cope with his 220 runs and three match-winning half-centuries in four games – is thanks to a more relaxed mind, Kohli’s youth coach Rajkumar Sharma thought. A few months ago, the former India captain took a break from international cricket before returning for the Asian Cup and getting back on top form in Australia.
“He’s more relaxed now. The good thing was he took that break. He played a lot of cricket and he wanted to relax a little bit. That’s exactly what he did – take some time for himself, spend time with his family,” said Sharma here on the sidelines of Kohli’s 34th birthday by Puma and made a public mural of Kohli’s face with 5,000 cricket balls.
“He is very fresh now and when he is fresh his preparation is really good. He has worked hard for this World Cup and it shows on the ground.”
In the Asia Cup against Afghanistan, Kohli knocked down a hundred to end a three-year drought in international cricket. However, Sharma felt that the batter’s form had not dropped so dramatically.
“It wasn’t that he didn’t make any runs at all. He wasn’t able to live up to the benchmark and expectations he sets for himself. People expect a lot from him, and that’s good. Fortunately, he peaks again at the right time and he plays cricket well. I hope he continues to play the same way and win the World Cup for India,” he said.
Haris Rauf’s six in the penultimate ball of the 19th against Pakistan — crunching a long ball straight back with a straight bat — was a “unique shot” for his youth coach.
“Those who saw that shot will remember it for the rest of their lives. It was unbelievable. I was shocked too. When I asked him about it, he also said, ‘Sir, bas lag hi gaya’ (Sir, it just happened ),’ said Sharma.
“It’s a very, very difficult shot, especially against a pacer like Rauf, who was bowling at 145-150 km/h. The ball wasn’t that short and the straight line was also long. So about six to hit was great .
“Technically he is very correct, therefore he was able to execute that shot. He was prepared that if Rauf throws that length, he will hit it there. And also the next ball he was ready for that quick shot ( it went for a six too), knowing full well that Rauf will be bowling in his pads.
“He always thinks one step ahead of the bowler. He visualizes it, which is what makes him so great.”