Much before his steely resolve and unmatched temperament to chase down big totals became something as usual as spotting an umpire on a cricket field, a young Virat Kohli had showcased his ability to pace an innings while batting second in a limited overs match.
The likes of Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni had already set benchmarks for Indian cricketers to try and match up to when it came to chasing targets. But Kohli, was in a breed of his own. His belligerent 133 not out against Sri Lanka in Hobart and masterclass (183) against Pakistan in Dhaka, which incidentally turned out to be his idol, Sachin Tendulkar’s ODI swansong, were an indicator of things to come.
With Tendulkar retired and experienced pros like Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir shown the door, Kohli soon became the team’s premier batsman and he staked claim for the numero uno position in a memorable ODI series against the Australians in October 2013.
His ruthless unbeaten 100 off 52 deliveries in a successful chase of 360 runs at Jaipur and series equalling 115 not out of just 66 balls at Nagpur was proof enough for Kohli’s liking for the Aussies, as opponents.
A rare failure in the 2015 World Cup semi-final against the Aussies meant India lost the World Cup crown but Kohli would go on to smash the Aussies all over the park in the ODI series down under in early 2016, but results didn’t go India’s way.
As luck would have it, India faced a do-or-die situation in the 2016 ICC WT20 at home against the Aussies in Mohali and Virat Kohli was at the crease. With the asking rate creeping up with each delivery and batsmen around him failing to deliver, Kohli launched a counter-attack that would be remembered by Indian cricket aficionados for years to come. His unbeaten 82 of 51 delivers taking the hosts into another WT20 semi-final.
After that innings, Kohli faced the Aussies in a home series in 2017 and apart from a match-winning 92 on a difficult Eden Gardens track, there wasn’t much to write home about.
So, when the Indian captain took guard at Sydney, after failing to fire in Brisbane and being denied an opportunity at Melbourne due to rain, Kohli knew he had to return to his ‘save the day’ ways to tie the series for India.
He was aided by a great start at the top but Kohli knew he had a fight on hand once Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma departed in quick succession. KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant didn’t last long and Kohli was still shrugging off the rust.
With Maxwell bowling an impeccable line, Kohli knew he had to target the pacers and he did just that. The shackles were broken in the 16th over as Kohli hit Andrew Tye for a boundary and six through preferred off side.
A six followed off the miserly Maxwell in the next over and the chase was brought back under control. The captain had broken through and that inspired Dinesh Karthik to get going as well. The reborn Karthik took the game to the Aussies in the next two overs. Kohli put the icing on the cake with back to back boundaries off Tye in the last over as India won with 3 balls to spare and drew the series.
The chasemaster was back to haunt his favourite opposition in Sydney. Much like Tendulkar in his pomp, Kohli is making the Aussies bleed and Indian fans couldn’t have asked for more just months before an ICC World Cup.