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India vs West Indies | Captain Kohli Brings Out 'A' Game at Right Time to Down West Indies

The India captain had not fired in the first two matches, managing only 4 in Chennai before a first-ball duck in Visakhapatnam

Karthik Lakshmanan |December 23, 2019, 1:17 PM IST
India vs West Indies | Captain Kohli Brings Out 'A' Game at Right Time to Down West Indies

One of the most interesting questions to Shreyas Iyer in the press conference before the third ODI against West Indies was on Virat Kohli's 'form'. The India captain had not fired in the first two matches, managing only 4 in Chennai before a first-ball duck in Visakhapatnam, while most other batsmen from either side were enjoying run fests.

Iyer brushed aside the question, saying "I don't know why you are asking this question. We are talking about a legend who has scored so many runs".

Iyer's response was as expected, but it's interesting that two failures is all it takes for some people to find abnormalities in Kohli's form. It didn't matter that Kohli was the Man of the Series in the T20I series. His last Test knock was a 136 against Bangladesh in the pink-ball game in Kolkata. Prior to the twin failures, Kohli's last two ODI knocks were 114* and 120, both against West Indies in the Caribbean.

It's not entirely the journalist's fault either - such is the standard Kohli has set for himself.

But it was almost a guarantee that Kohli would not miss out in Cuttack. Call it law of averages, but there was no way Kohli was going to miss out three consecutive times. He had been fired up right from the start of the tour, beginning with the 'notebook' knock in Hyderabad. He was bound to come good especially given Cuttack was a decider.

That was nearly confirmed when India won the toss and opted to field. Chances only increased when West Indies scored more than 300. A competitive run chase was the best stage for Kohli to show he's king, and he did just that with 85 off 81 that all but guided India home. Nobody should be surprised, given his numbers when India chase above 300. Kohli has 1743 runs from 31 such innings, averaging above 62 with 9 centuries and 6 fifties.

Kohli got the perfect base to get going too, with KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma adding 122 for the opening stand. That's no guarantee of a good performance though, for Kohli fell for a first-ball duck in the previous game after the openers had added 227. There was still plenty of work to be done, and it only got tougher in the middle overs.

Kohli's job became progressively difficult, as India lost Rahul first, and then Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant and Kedar Jadhav cheaply. He had begun with a typical cover driven boundary to set the tone, and raced into the 30s in even more typical style without any sort of fuss.

West Indies tried it all - Keemo Paul's variation, Alzarri Joseph's short balls and Roston Chase's off-spin. Rahul and Iyer were undone by short pitched stuff, but Kohli would not be perturbed; he pulled Joseph for a couple of boundaries to kill all such plans. West Indies wouldn't try that again.

The most significant statement Kohli made with the bat on Sunday was when he reached his half-century, and barely celebrated. His team was in trouble and he had bigger goals to achieve, the celebrations could wait.

Kohli was aghast when Jadhav was bowled by a harmless overpitched ball from Cottrell. But the captain got a stable partner after that wicket in the form of Ravindra Jadeja. The all-rounder took pressure off with crucial boundaries, keeping India ticking.

Together, the duo got the equation down to 30 off 24 - a mere formality. But West Indies kept themselves in the game when Kohli fell bowled by Paul, especially given the length of the Indian tail. However, Shardul Thakur and Jadeja finished it off without any hassles.

"Having done it so many times, you obviously have a bit more calmness and you understand how the dew is playing and all you need is a small partnership," he said after the game. "From there the opposition usually crumbles. It was outstanding to see others finishing the game. Me finishing wouldn't have been an outstanding thing, but this is good for the team."

Batsman Kohli would have liked to be there at the end to celebrate the win, but captain Kohli was happy with the long-term gains.

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