In the days gone by, India’s batting depended on a solitary figure. Through seventies and much of eighties, Indian batting revolved around Sunny Gavaskar. Nearly the same thing happened in the nineties and a substantial part of new millennium, when Sachin Tendulkar was Indian batting’s focal point. For the past year or so, the Gavaskar-Tendulkar example is being emulated by Virat Kohli, whose success and failure tells on India’s performance. Every time Kohli walks out in the middle, he carries a huge weight of Indian fans’ aspirations. There were occasions in the past, when those hopes and aspirations had been belied but, by and large, Kohli has delivered what had been expected of him. March 27 at Mohali was one such day, when India played a crunch game against 2015 ODI World Champions Australia and faced a winning target of 161 in dropping night temperatures and insects flying around on the flood-lit ground. Australia looked like taking the match away, when India lost Yuvraj Singh in 14th over and required 67 off remaining 36 balls. Dhoni joined Kohli but remained only a spectator as Kohli went for the bowling and eased things for India. The determined Delhi native showered fours and sixes and while Dhoni provided him adequate support from the other end, Kohli crossed the line for India in the last over, what if the winning hit came from Dhoni’s bat. Mohali couldn’t have recalled a more memorable batting performance from an Indian victory-chase in the years gone by.
On Sunday, Australia decided to bat first after winning the toss and raced away to 54 in the 4th over, before the dangerous Usman Khawaja departed after making 26 off 16 balls with 6 powerful hits to the fence. However, the tempo of Australian scoring slowed down after they lost two more wickets in quick succession. David Warner and skipper Steven Smith fell as stumped out victims to MS Dhoni as they were beaten by flighted deliveries from R Ashwin and Yuvraj Singh. But Glenn Maxwell and Aaron Finch carried on. The two added 26 for the fourth wicket before Finch holed out to Shikhar Dhawan. Later Maxwell was clean-bowled by Jasprit Bumrah in 17th over and Australia were reduced to 130/5. However, Australia did well in death over to finish with 160/6.
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan began India’s 161-run victory chase promisingly. But the pressure of mounting asking-rate resulted in both openers getting out cheaply. While Dhawan fell to a top-edged shot to Nathan Coulter-Nile, Sharma was bowled by Shane Watson. With Suresh Raina also departing early, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh had to produce a rescue act. They did with a 49-run fourth-wicket partnership. Unfortunately however, the required run-rate went up sharply. When Yuvraj was brilliantly held by Watson in 14th over, balance tilted in Australia’s favor at 94/4.
Now it was up to Kohli and Dhoni to take India to deliverance. They had done so in the past but Sunday’s was a do-or-die game for both teams. The 15th over from Watson yielded 8 runs and 12 came from the 16th by Josh Hazlewood. India still required 47 from 24 balls as Australia mounted pressure. Watson gave away just 8 in the 17th over and now from 18 balls India needed to score 39. It was here that Kohli showed his acumen as the Mohali crowd continued chanting Kohli-Kohli without a break. And what did Kohli do? He did his very best in taking 19 runs from James Faulkner in 18th over and blasted Coulter-Nile for 4 boundaries in the penultimate over. Now India needed just 4 in the last over and MS Dhoni scored the winning runs from Faulkner’s first ball of the 20th over. The crowds went wild at Mohali as India sailed into semifinals. By all accounts, however, it was Virat Kohli’s 51-ball 82 that made all the difference besides affording him the player-of-the-match award.
India’s next match will be the semifinal against the West Indies in Mumbai on March 31 while in the earlier semifinal on March 30; New Zealand will take on England at Delhi. In a format like this, it is difficult to predict the course of the tournament, though Indian fans are convinced about Team-India taking the 2016 ICC T-20 World Cup title on April 03, 2015.
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