On Thursday, Virat Kohli ended his long wait for a 71st international century and his first in Twenty20 Internationals as he drove India to a massive 101-run victory over Afghanistan in their last Super Fours match at the Asia Cup.

Asia Cup: Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar star as India end campaign with big win against Afghanistan

Ahead of the tournament, Kohli’s lean patch and his return to cricket after a break where he missed India’s tours of West Indies and Zimbabwe was a big talking point. However, the former India captain put all that to rest as he finished the tournament with 276 runs at an average of 92 with scores of 35, 59*, 60, 0 and 122* in five matches.

Virat Kohli after international century No 71: ‘When I came back from break, I wasn’t desperate’

After the match-winning knock against Afghanistan in Dubai, the player of the match opened up to captain Rohit Sharma in a candid interview conducted by BCCI. He spoke about his return to form, returning to his template, his responsibility in the Indian team and the importance of KL Rahul’s knock.

Return to form

On his return to form because of a change in his mindset, the 33-year-old said to Rohit, “After playing for 12-14 years, it was the first time I didn’t pick up the bat for almost a month. And when I came back into to the team, the communication from you and management was pretty clear. The team management’s plan was to let me bat. So it kind of eased me down, I was pretty relaxed, and the space team management gave me was very important, especially when I was coming after a break,”

“I had a world with Rahul (Dravid) bhai, three four days ago on how can I improve by strike rate in the middle overs, while batting first. My goal was to improve my game as per team’s point of view, and that I was trying to do in the Asia Cup.”

Finding the right template

Talking about his template that is more focused on finding the gaps for boundaries rather than big-hitting, Kohli said, “My aim was always to play all three formats so I just banked on good cricketing shots always and I always came to every tournament or series thinking that six hitting is not a big strength of mine. I can (hit sixes) when the situation demands but I’m better at finding gaps and hitting boundaries. So as long as I can hit many boundaries, it will still serve the purpose for the team and I told the coaches as well that I’m going to try to hit gaps in the field rather than you know thinking that if I have to increase my strike rate in T20 cricket, I will have to hit sixes only.”

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“This tournament helped me because I was able to return to my template. It’s all about being in a good space and enjoying batting. I’m very happy, especially from a team’s point of view that I’m actually playing in my template like I have played for a while and which I was going away from because I was a bit desperate to do something which is not in my in my game, but I’ve come back to my team.”

On KL Rahul

India had dented Afghanistan’s efforts with the ball early on with a 119-run opening partnership during which KL Rahul combined with Kohli to bring up 62 in his 41-ball stay at the crease. The opener who was leading the side in Rohit’s absence, also needed a knock like this to regain the confidence after missing out on cricket for several months due to an injury, a sport hernia surgery and Covid-19.

He said: “We should not ignore his knock because we know how important it is for him to be in a good space as well, heading into the World Cup. We all know what he can do in this format, he plays very clean shots again, very solid shots and once he bats well in T20 cricket then, you know our team looks even more strong. We know how confident we are as a team and I’m sure that good things will happen in the future.”

Preparation for T20 World Cup

With the T20 World Cup in Australia coming up next month, India will be happy to take Kohli’s return to form as a positive, despite being knocked out of the tournament. Taking learnings from the Asia Cup to the preparation for the World Cup, Kohli said, “You (Rohit) and me have been playing for so long, for us it’s about being in the right frame of mind and continuing being in that space, so that is the most important thing. What we are creating in the in the change room is very special and very sacred to all of us. We know how good we feel as a team in the change room.”

He added: “The next two series against top teams (South Africa and Australia) is a chance to establish those good habits and be very consistent as a team under pressure situations and make good decisions. And then we go into the World Cup knowing that yes, we can do it against all these bowlers. Even though the conditions are different, it might be a little tougher, but we’re going there earlier. So I see the next couple of months as a great phase where we play quality teams. We go to Australia, we have preparation time and then we’ll absolutely ready come the first game of the World Cup.”