India's best chaser and vice-captain's inconsistency may have shaken the faith of millions
Sydney: There was a time, not too long ago, when Virat Kohli stepping out to bat, gave millions of Indian cricket fans a sense of security given the match-winner that he is. However, at this World Cup, the vice-captain's inconsistency with the bat would have shaken that faith.
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A dejected Virat Kohli departs for one during the World Cup semi-final against Australia at the SCG yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
Yesterday, India's dream of retaining the World Cup stumbled at the second-last hurdle when they went down to Australia by 95 runs. And while Kohli alone cannot be blamed for the defeat, he did finish bottom in the scorers' list with just one run to his name.
Worse still, he took 13 balls before he executed a failed pull shot to pacer Mitchell Johnson only to sky the ball for wicketkeeper Brad Haddin to pouch.
Runs drying up
Besides his century against Pakistan in India's World Cup opener, the 26-year-old has scores of 18 and five in the two pre-World Cup warm-up matches, followed by 46 against South Africa, 33 not out against UAE, 33 against the West Indies, 44 not out versus Ireland, 38 against Zimbabwe and three in the quarter-final against Bangladesh.
Before the World Cup, in the tri-series he managed just four and eight in the two matches against England besides a three not out against Australia. Though not all the numbers here are poor, they are a pale comparison when pitted against his Test match scores soon after India landed Down Under in November last year.
He scored back-to-back centuries (115 & 141) in the first Test at Adelaide followed by a massive 169 and 54 in the third Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and yet another ton (147 & 46) in the fourth Test at this very ground in Sydney.
Yesterday, however, he looked uncomfortable right from the start, despite coming out in a not-very-tense situation. Opener Shikhar Dhawan, having belted 45 off 41, headed back, while Rohit Sharma was on a steady 24 with the visitors on 76-1 inside 13 overs and needing another 253 off 37 at a little over six per over. But Kohli seemed tentative.
Short ball woes
He struggled with the short ball as well as a couple of full balls that Johnson smartly bowled with pace. His non-authoritative pushes square of the wicket and towards point seemed scratchy.
He then played out a maiden (15th over by Josh Hazlewood) hinting that he could be looking to hit himself out of trouble. And right enough, when he faced Johnson next up, he did it and departed. All this despite Kohli being one of India's best chasers. Fourteen of his 22 ODI tons (from 151 games) have resulted in successful chases.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni defended his deputy at the post-match press conference. "The fact is that he played a shot and it didn't pay off. It happens to a lot of
"Once the opposition puts over 300 runs on the board, and with quality bowlers, at some point you have to take that risk, and if it pays off then all of a sudden, everything changes," said Dhoni.
It takes just one good knock to get a player of Kohli's calibre back in form, and this World Cup semi-final show notwithstanding, Indian cricket will be better off if Kohli gets that knock sooner than later.
Did you know?
Sunday's World Cup final between Aus and NZ will be the first title clash without an Asian team since 1987
Losing wickets in a heap never works when chasing 329. India got off to a brisk start by scoring 76 in 12.5 overs before Shikhar Dhawan hit one down the throat of Glenn Maxwell at deep extra cover. The Aussies never looked back after the breakthrough and kept a tight leash on the Indian scoring. From 76 for one, India collapsed to 108 for four and were never quite there in the chase.
Star of the match
Steven Smith surely loves batting against the Indians. He certainly was not satisfied after scoring nearly 800 runs in the Test series against the Indians. Walking in at No 3 after the fall of David Warner early, Smith's counter attack took the game away from the Indians. While Aaron Finch played the perfect foil, Smith notched up yet another ton and turned out to be India's Achilles heel yet again.
The number of times Team India have been bowled out in this World Cup
The number of runs Aaron Finch had scored in his last five innings. Yesterday, the Australian opener smashed 81 in the World Cup semis
Australia's win-less record in World Cup semi-finals. Yesterday was the first time India and Australia met in the semis