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regular-article-logo Monday, 26 February 2024

World Cup 2023: Sachin’s perfection with the bat was something I always wanted to emulate, says Virat Kohli

I would say this knock is special for Virat as well as tough because the way the wicket was in the afternoon, at one time it felt as if 260-270 would also be a good total, says Ravindra Jadeja

Sayak Banerjee Eden Gardens Published 06.11.23, 06:57 AM
Virat Kohli on Sunday.

Virat Kohli on Sunday. Sanat Kumar Sinha

“Kohli ko ball dooo...” That was the chant reverberating around the Eden when South Africa had lost more than half their side in pursuit of a daunting 327-run target on Sunday.

So enthralled was the Eden’s capacity crowd with his record-equalling 49th ODI ton and India’s absolute dominance over South Africa that they even wanted the “wrong-footed, inswinging menace” — as head coach Rahul Dravid had termed Kohli on the eve of this game — to bowl an over and two.

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For sure, Kohli’s 35th birthday couldn’t have been any better or special, while the former captain also acknowledged being extra motivated playing against “the toughest team in the tournament so far”.

“It was a big game. Probably playing the toughest team in the tournament so far, there was extra motivation for doing well,” Kohli, adjudged Man of the Match, said at the post-match presentation.

“People made it a bit more special on my birthday. I had a sense of it being something more.”

Sachin Tendulkar, who completed 49 ODI hundreds in 2012.

Sachin Tendulkar, who completed 49 ODI hundreds in 2012. Getty Images

It was an equally emotional moment for Kohli, having touched his hero Sachin Tendulkar. “His (Sachin’s) tweet made it even more special. It’s all too much to take in for now though,” Kohli gushed.

“Obviously, it’s a huge honour to equal my hero’s record. His perfection with the bat was something I always wanted to emulate.

“Well and truly, it’s an emotional moment for me. I know the days I come from and I also know the days I have watched him on television. To receive such appreciation from him means a lot to me.”

What Kohli said after should be a matter of huge relief both for Team India as well as the fans. “I enjoy playing cricket again, which is more important now and that I’m able to contribute for the team all over again.”

The message for him from the team management was to bat deep, something that’s bread-and-butter for Kohli. “When the openers start in that fashion, you’d think it (the pitch) was a belter. But conditions change with the ball getting older.

“The message from the management was for me to bat deep, and I was happy from that perspective. We also knew we were above the par score when we had reached around 315,” Kohli said.

Skipper Rohit Sharma too doffed his hat to the innings Kohli churned out, especially as this Eden pitch didn’t get any easier as the game progressed. “It was not an easy pitch today (Sunday). You needed someone like Kohli, who batted as per the situation,” Rohit emphasised.

Ravindra Jadeja, bamboozling the Proteas with his five-for, echoed Rohit. “I would say this knock is special for Virat as well as tough because the way the wicket was in the afternoon, at one time it felt as if 260-270 would also be a good total. And at that time, rotating the strike as well as hitting boundaries must have been very challenging,” Jadeja said at the news conference.

“So, I would say that when the team wasn’t able to score too freely as both their (South Africa’s) spinners were bowling well, it certainly took a very big effort from Virat to rotate the strike and also get boundaries to push the team total above 300 and remain not out at the same time. A very big achievement indeed,” Jadeja stressed.

Nostalgic trip at Eden

Carlos Brathwaite had his moment of nostalgia at Eden Gardens on Sunday.

An hour before the India-South Africa game took off, Brathwaite — with the help of the Cricket Association of Bengal stadium committee chairman Santanu Mitra — came across the backlit picture board of his reaction after hitting the winning shot for the West Indies in the 2016 World T20 final against England at Eden Gardens.

Carlos Brathwaite with Cricket Association of Bengal stadium committee chairman Santanu Mitra.

Carlos Brathwaite with Cricket Association of Bengal stadium committee chairman Santanu Mitra. Sayak Banerjee

The former Windies T20I captain had hit Ben Stokes for four maximums in a row in the deciding over of that final to seal the game and the trophy for the Caribbean side.

He remained unbeaten on 34 off just 10 balls. Reminiscing about that game, Brathwaite, commentator for the BBC during his World Cup, said: “It’s a bit emotional for me as well as humbling to see myself being immortalised here.

Many thanks to the association.” It certainly helped to soothe the pain of not seeing the Windies in an ODI World Cup for the first time ever.

Sayak Banerjee

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