Virat Kohli can tell us that that he is lost for words, he can believe that this was simply meant to be and he can also tell himself that he had no idea how all that happened at the Melbourne Cricket Ground against Pakistan at the T20 World Cup on Sunday, the 22nd of October 2022... but if there was anybody who could do it, it was going to be him.
During his acceleration in the finely crafted unbeaten 82* (remember the score?) against Pakistan that produced a run-chase for the history books, there were a few pivotal moments. But none more enthralling than two swings of the bat that brought the roof down at MCG, so to speak. And, more relevantly, it brought down Pakistan’s best bowler at the death... as Haris Rauf was bent double at the end of it, probably wondering what had just happened. As many of us did.
Rauf, in his three-over spell had already picked up two wickets and had placed Pakistan in the driver’s seat. It was in his final over that Kohli decided to put his plans into total disarray. The pacer was right on track in the first four deliveries: 1 run, 1 run, dot, 1 run. It was a match-winning sequence.
But what followed in the next two balls was a beautiful, brutal and calculated takedown.
In the second last delivery of the over, Kohli unleashed an almost straight bat to smash an off-pace short of length ball down to the ground and over the head of the bowler. As he was finishing the shot, he walked away to the side with a swagger that made it even more elegant.
And he wasn’t done yet.
In the last delivery, he topped it up with another outrageous shot. Kohli’s wrists exploded against Rauf’s slightly fuller delivery that was angling towards leg stump as he sent the ball flying over left fine leg.
Hardik Pandya, who had the best seat in the house where more than 90,000 had descended, was left in awe, pumped up. He’d later say that the first six was the best shot he had ever seen.
In a conversation with broadcaster Neroli Meadows and former head coach Ravi Shastri on Star Sports, regarding the process of the two-shot takedown, Kohli later explained “I kept believing in myself. Those last two shots to Haris Rauf was the time I really told myself, kept talking to myself saying, ‘You have to hit two sixes now otherwise there is no chance you are going to win this game.’ And I told Hardik (Pandya), if we can go after him and if he goes for a big over, they will panic big time. And that is exactly what happened.”
Kohli, in that conversation also admitted to feeling like he was messing up the chase early on when he took his time to get going and how Hardik changed things around for him. But he did seem particularly pleased with himself when he played the second six against him.
India needed 31 runs off 12 then and the pressure was well on the batting side after 18.4 overs were bowled, but a look at Rauf after he finished the over and it was evident that the pressure, indeed, was on Pakistan. The complexion of the match had changed in a span of those two deliveries.
Humble, yet with an hint of awe in his own shot-making, Kohli said, “The second one was a kind of freak shot. I was expecting him to go back of length, try and double-bluff me because he brought third man in and the point was in as well. I knew he wasn’t going to try and bounce me because I was kind of expecting the short ball and I could swing it over to fine leg for six. I was trying to make room, a little bit but I did not move much and when the ball came towards my hip, I just swung through the line.”
He further explained, “I honestly did not plan that shot. So, when I hit him straight (in the previous delivery), I kind of wanted to hit him down the ground because that is the best position for me as a player. When I look to hit down the ground, I am able to pick the length of the ball and swivel across to hit square of the field as well. But with shots like that (in the last delivery), you understand that things were just meant to be.”
Haris went for 15 runs in that over with 12 off those runs coming in final two balls. The equation then was down to 16 off the final over and by then, Kohli was backing himself to take on Mohammad Nawaz.
The rest, as they say, is history. The books, one more time, will evidence that in a high-pressure situation that demands extreme tenacity and mental resolve is when Virat Kohli produces these moments of magic. An unbeaten 82*, just like that night in Mohali against Australia in 2016, and 12 of those runs will forever remain etched in the minds of those who watched it live.
“Even the gods wanted a game like this,” Ravi Shastri said at the end of the night, with an MCG finally nearly empty in the background, with just a few seagulls flying around, as the rain stayed away to let Kohli wield his bat.