You don’t fear Virat Kohli in T20 cricket. Well, at least, you don’t fear him when he starts his innings. He isn’t going to come out and start bossing the bowlers right away.
Instead, he tries to build his innings in the correct (but perhaps not T20) way. He takes the first few balls to gauge the pace of the wicket and get his eye in. He won’t try and hit the first ball out of the park as Hardik Pandya might do.
He pretty much tries to play the role of the anchor and allow all the big-hitters around him to do the heavy lifting.
But against CSK on Saturday, he needed to perform a dual role. Kohli needed to ensure that he took his team deep and also that they got a huge boost in the end. And on a difficult, two-paced track, he completed both those jobs with a fair degree of aplomb.
CSK’s bowlers started the match well. They kept the run-rate in check and by the time AB de Villiers was dismissed for a duck in the 11th over, RCB had just 67, for the loss of three wickets, on board.
But this is where the genius of Kohli’s batting shone through.
For much of the early part of his innings, the RCB skipper had run hard for his singles and twos. By the time he reached 34 off 30 balls at the end of the 14th over, he had hit just two fours, the last of which had come in the 7th over.
The fall of Devdutt Padikkal and de Villiers in the same over would have made Kohli consciously place even more value on his wicket. So he held himself back, knowing that a total around 150, given the nature of the track, would give them a fighting chance.
But then a leading edge that went for six off the first ball of the 15th over seemed to help kick Kohli into a higher gear.
From 44 off 35 to 90 off 52: Virat Kohli scored 46 runs off his last 17 balls. He did it with proper cricketing shots and some really hard running. In the last over of their innings, Kohli and Dube ran four consecutive twos and nothing made the point better.
To illustrate how well he ran during the innings, Kohli made 50 runs in singles and twos in his unbeaten 90. In his entire innings, there were just five dot balls while CSK had 30 dot balls in their first 10 overs. Simply put, no ball was wasted.
90 runs, 52 balls, 47 scoring balls, 5 dots
Runs on the leg-side: 52%; Runs on the off-side: 48%
Singles: 28, Twos: 11, Fours: 4, Sixes: 4
It was smart batting, the kind we have come to expect from Kohli over the years. But it was also the kind of batting, RCB will hope they see more of from their skipper.
“If you’re in at the death overs and you have a score and you’re hitting it well, you can capitalise well,” said Kohli after the match. “That was something for us to learn tonight. I was putting too much pressure on myself [in the early matches]. When you start burdening yourself too much, you don’t contribute as a player and your team needs that as well.”
Kohli added: “That super over really opened my thinking up, where I had to perform or we would lose.”
If and when Kohli does get his eye in, he can be hard to stop because of the ease with which he finds gaps in the field. They are no glaring weaknesses in his game, so there is no particular area for the opposition to target either.
If Kohli can continue to bat like this (scores of 72*, 43, 90* in his last three matches), it really will set the rest of the batting order free for few batsmen around the world have the kind consistency that the RCB skipper can generate. And that, in turn, will be a game-changer – not as Kieron Pollard or Andre Russell are – but in a very Kohli kind of way.