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Kohli: Proved a point to myself

Virat Kohli celebrates after reaching his hundred against Sri Lanka, in Hobart, on Tuesday. (Getty Images)

Hobart: Virat Kohli, who smashed an unbeaten 133 to guide India to a sensational victory over Sri Lanka in a crunch tri-series match on Tuesday, said that the team was always confident of winning inside 40 overs.

India needed to overhaul the target of 321 in 40 overs to get a bonus point and stay afloat in the tournament, which they did eventually in 36.4 overs and with seven wickets remaining.

The way the Man of the Match took Lasith Malinga to the cleaners, with 24 runs in one over towards the end, exemplified the domination he enjoyed over the Sri Lankan bowlers.

“To be able to chase 321 in 40 overs in a must win game was a great batting effort altogether. We performed as a team today (Tuesday)… This shows our character as a team, and how well we can execute our plans. It is about working hard and sticking in there.

“Critics will always be there, but with this innings I proved a point to myself. It was like if you play well, we can take the team to victory. So this is a special feeling… It has to be the best ODI knock… Not probably the way I batted, but given the kind of game we were playing,” said Kohli.

“Before my innings in Perth, I was thinking about what was going on in the media. But, after that, I stopped watching television or reading newspapers. I told myself to think positive and there was no good reason not to score runs. I believed and I think that was the key.

“I committed mistakes in the last few games after getting to 20 and 30, trying to middle every ball, which doesn’t happen always in international cricket.

“In the last game, Dhoni told me that it’s probably on three occasions when I have been hitting the ball beautifully, and I have got out on 20. He advised me to stick it out on those tough periods. I kept that in mind.

“I knew even if I was to get 30 runs, which might come off the edges, I have to stick in and I don’t have to throw it away,” he explained.

“This innings shows how badly I didn’t want to throw it away. Two times I felt like someone had pushed me. You have only one game left to play, so there’s nothing you can be casual or lazy. You need to give it all.

“When you have one game to play, you need to give everything and we were able to do that and we can be satisfied.

“We looked to get one boundary in an over, keep playing an over at a time, and if you need 100 runs from the last 10 overs, it was very gettable. So we took it as two Twenty20 games.

“Initially, we had the plan to play 10 overs of Powerplay. Then, in the next five, we would consolidate and run hard between the wickets and then take the batting Powerplay assuming they would take bowling Powerplay in 15-20 overs.

“But that didn’t happen, they didn’t take bowling Powerplay. The message came from the dressing room you don’t need to take batting Powerplay. Just keep playing and keep wickets in hand.

“I told Gautam I can feel I am pretty set. I am confident and I can go for it. I would keep one end positive so we don’t lose too many wickets,” he said.

“It is important to win like that after the sort of tour we had so far in Australia. We will take a lot of positives from this match when we will look back, it was like telling each of us that we can take a bit from this win. It shows this team can play like this at any point of time.

“If we reach the final, we will be as expressive as today, we will not be hesitant and we will play like we did today.

“To be honest, it’s mentally very tiring. If you are winning, you can stay for five months. When you are not doing well, it’s difficult to hold yourself mentally. Physically, it’s not that difficult because you have breaks. But to hold yourself mentally is the biggest challenge for a cricketer,” said the Hobart hero.

Kohli said he focused on staying relaxed. “I did nothing. I didn’t talk to anyone about cricket. I got a call from home, someone wanted to discuss cricket, I hung up in 10 seconds. I was like, please don’t talk about cricket, please don’t tell me you have to do it in the last game because we were not even thinking about it.

“We were trying to be as relaxed as possible. To be honest, we didn’t have anything to lose, this was one game for us, we had to give it our all. We wanted to enjoy it as much as possible. I think it’s going to lift the spirit of the team, the mood in the dressing room is amazing right now.”

On his duel with Malinga, Kohli said: “Malinga is very difficult to get away, once you get on top of it, you make sure it stays that way. They persisted with him even when he gave 24 runs because they knew he could get them wickets. I was hitting the ball well, he was bringing it in, it’s my natural shot.

“I probably got the balls in the right areas. If you start executing the shots, it’s not easy for bowlers to get yorkers right. I knew he would go for yorkers because he needs wickets. If he doesn’t execute them, then I have the upper hand. So I had that in my mind but I stayed very calm at that stage.”

Meanwhile, Mahendra Singh Dhoni said: “This was one of the best one-day Internationals I have seen and been part of. It was a fantastic chase… Everything went right from the very first over of our chase.

“When you need 321 off 40 overs, you need a good start. You need the quantity, but the quality also. Overall, it was a fantastic performance.

“First 10 overs, we got 90-odd runs on the board. It was a great start and we just needed to carry on the momentum. Sachin (Tendulkar), (Virender) Sehwag gave us the start and then (Gautam) Gambhir also chipped in with an useful contribution of 63 runs.

“We wanted to keep them down to 250-270. We knew we had the firepower, but still 321 runs were a bit more than we could digest. But once we got that start, we knew we could kick on.

“Now, it’s not in our hands anymore, the India captain said.

“We are going on a couple of days of shopping… We will practice at the same time, too.”

Mahela Jayawardene felt it was tough to accept the defeat. “It’s tough to swallow such a loss but it’s a good game of cricket and well deserved win by the Indians.

“You can’t do much when someone bats like that. It was the first bad day for our bowlers in the tournament… so it was fair enough. We were a bit shoddy with the fielding as well.

“It wasn’t just (Virat) Kohli, it was also the way the others batted around him. Kohli batted brilliantly. You have to give him a lot of credit. The way he batted in the middle overs, pretty much scoring a boundary every over, was just brilliant. We knew they had their license to go out and play their shots. We gave away a few too many and they had the momentum after that.”