Mirpur: First, the Mohammad Amir Show, then the Virat Kohli Show and somewhere in between we also had one of the most anticipated cricket matches between India and Pakistan. On Saturday, these two young men showed that sometimes individual performances are so breathtaking that they can transcend the game, irrespective of how important the game was perceived to be.
Pakistan's pacer Mohammad Amir celebrates India’s Rohit Sharma’s wicket during the Asia Cup T20 cricket match in Mirpur on Saturday
Since it's a batsman's game and the fact that India went on to win, it's only fair to start this article by giving due credit to the man who made 83 look like a defendable score and brought everyone who watched the game to the edge of their seats.
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Even before the Asia Cup started, there was a lot of anticipation around Amir's return to the fold. He exited international cricket as a very young and promising player and while those impressions were still fresh in our memories, we weren't oblivious to the fact that staying away from top flight cricket for five years can deflate hopes and at times, even the talent.
Five years is a long time in international cricket and if you haven't even played domestic cricket in that period, your comeback becomes that much tougher. How do you keep yourself motivated? You might spend countless hours in the gym but if you haven't bowled to quality batsmen in match situations, how do you upgrade or even maintain your skill-level?
India's Virat Kohli plays a cover drive during the Asia Cup T20 cricket match against Pakistan at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Mirpur on Saturday. Pics/AFP
Before the Asia Cup, Amir did play in New Zealand and in the Pakistan Super League but none of us had watched how good he still was because both events were not televised in India, and therefore there was skepticism around his return. But he dispelled that notion in the first over itself, for he started with two wicket-taking deliveries—first the impeccable yorker that hit Rohit Sharma on the toe and the second that shaped in after pitching to find Rohit plumb in front.
From the first ball of his spell to the last ball that he bowled, we watched in awe. His 24 ball-spell lasted no more than 35 minutes but it left us with a lifetime of memories to cherish. I was too young to admire the quality of Wasim Akram's bowling when he was at the peak of his powers but I'm pretty sure that it wouldn't have been too different from what we witnessed from Amir in Mirpur. The exhibition of swing while maintaining high-speeds was sensational.
It needed something equally sensational to counter that quality and that came from Virat Kohli. It's not that Amir didn't trouble him but the fact that he couldn't dismiss him showed that it was a contest amongst equals. Amir asked tough questions but Kohli had the answers. He did alter his game to suit the demands of the situation and weathered the storm.
Kohli played close to the body, didn't try anything fancy and, more importantly, understood that counterpunching Amir wasn't an option on the day. Aggression isn't always about hitting fours and sixes; it's also about being decisive in your movement and defending with conviction. Once Amir's spell was done, Kohli swiftly changed gears and showed that there aren't many better chasers than him.
The toughest thing to do in a pressure situation is to do what comes naturally to you and Kohli did just that. He played percentage cricket but the quality of skill-set is such that even while doing that, he could score at run-a-ball against a good bowling unit.
There was a time when Indian batting revolved around Tendulkar and people used to say in every tough situation that 'Sachin Hai Na' (Sachin is still there…there's hope). Kohli has assumed a similar stature—so, stay calm and trust in Kohli.