Chetan Narula gives his latest analysis having witnessed Virat Kohil's outstanding match-winning innings against South Africa in the ICC World Twenty20 semi-final.
India beat South Africa by six wickets in a tense second semi-final. They were chasing 173 runs, which the Proteas put up thanks to a brilliant fifty by skipper Faf du Plessis. But chase specialist Kohli made sure that this wasn’t a mountain too tall for India.
Meanwhile, the first semi-final had been washed away on Thursday, when defending champions West Indies were placed at 80 for four in 13.5 overs whilst chasing Lanka’s 160 for six.
An intense hailstorm hit Dhaka and washed away any chances Windies had of surmounting that total, losing by 27 runs (D/L method).
Player of the Day
There is no looking past Virat Kohli at the moment. They say he is in imperious form, but such a dominant run-scoring spree almost always has an end-point.
That is not happening in this case, and post-match, the batsman indicated the reason for it.
"When I know I am hitting the ball well in the game, then I don’t need to do a lot in the nets, because one bad net session can change the way I am thinking or feeling about my batting.
"Why will I do it then? Cricket is played between your ears more than with your technique."
It gives an insight into what a thinking cricketer he has evolved into, someone who wants to maximise his potential by converting the chances that are coming his way.
In the first four games that India played in the Super 10 stage, Kohli had scores of 36 not out, 54, 57 not out and 23. Given how these matches had panned put, there was a lot of suspicion about India’s prowess when they will either be asked to bat first or asked to chase a tall score in the knockouts.
Indian skipper MS Dhoni pointed out many-a-time then, that it was the ‘responsibility of the in-form top-order batsmen to see the side through’ should either eventuality arise. In the recent times then, there is one man who has risen above the pressure experienced by his team-mates in a tight chase and seen his side through.
What he has done in ODIs was only condensed to this shortest format as the arguably the best batsman in this Indian squad came to the fore with a very calm unbeaten 72 runs (off 44 balls, five fours and two sixes) to see his side through to the finals.
Contest of the Day
South Africa hedged their bet to win the game on Dale Steyn. Their strategy was to hold back Steyn’s three overs for the end when the chase will get even tighter than earlier in the innings.
This thinking was in keeping with how the fast-bowler has been used throughout this tournament. He usually bowls that one-odd over in the powerplay and then returns to bowl the 15th, 17th and 19th combination or the 16th, 18th, 20th combination.
With Imran Tahir bowling an excellent spell at the other end it became obvious that the game was now a contest between Steyn and Kohli. The problem for the Proteas though was that the bowler was being held back by his skipper, while the batsman was free to do his own thinking.
And Kohli is more a mathematician at the crease than a batsman. When asked how he his calculative approach changes in a T20 game from an ODI match, he replied thus: "A lot depends on the starts. If we get a good start, then I can play myself in. In a poor start I am forced to hit out as well and I can end up getting out.
"Then it’s the normal routine, how many runs to get, how many overs, which bowlers to hit against, who are the part-timers and when will they bowl, etc.
"Only big difference is that these are very quick decisions in the T20 format."
Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane’s quick start allowed Kohli to bide his time. By his own admission, he wasn’t hitting the ball very well and didn’t have a single boundary until the 17-run mark, when he opened up with a huge six off JP Duminy.
Overall, he played only three dot balls in his innings and that is where he won the game for India, for he didn’t allow pressure to be built up either on himself for a lack of boundaries or on the team since he was still batting at a good pace. When he did open up, the next 20 balls he faced yielded 35 runs and then the last eight balls of his knock yielded 20 runs.
"It was important to put pressure on Steyn because he is always looking for wickets.
"So it was vital to take runs off other bowlers so that he didn’t have many runs to play with," said Kohli, spelling out that he made sure that when Steyn arrived on the scene, the contest was already over.
Final – India vs Sri Lanka
It will be a rematch of the 2011 ODI World Cup in Mumbai, which the Sri Lankans lost. But their minds will be set to the 2012 World T20 final in Colombo against West Indies, which they also lost.
In 2010, they lost in the semi-finals of the World T20 to England at St. Lucia. In 2009, they lost to Pakistan in the final at Lord’s.
In 2007, they didn’t make the semi-finals in the inaugural edition, but earlier that year, Sri Lanka did lose to Australia in the ODI World Cup final.
In short, they have been the bridesmaids for a long time running now. And, with Mahela Jaywardene and Kumar Sangakkara starting their walk into the sunset with the shortest format, they will not be devoid of any motivation.
The conditions will not be unfamiliar to them, having had the measure of the West Indies in the semis and winning the Asia Cup here in Mirpur earlier in the year. Moreover the familiarity of this contest with India makes this an even more balanced equation.
India, meanwhile, are on a rampaging march. They are near-unbeaten in ICC tournaments of late, holding the ODI crown as well the Champions Trophy they won in summer 2013.
Here they have again answered their critics, making full use of the conditions that adhere to their spinners as well as medium-pacers, while the batting has served notice whenever questions have been asked of it.
Quite simply, there is no obvious winner here, but the team that does win it in the end, will have deserved it.
© Cricket World 2014