Virat Kohli has the cricketing world at his feet, again!

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Virat Kohli played a match-defining innings against Gujarat Titans in IPL 2022.

IPL

Virat Kohli has the cricketing world at his feet, again!

With Virat Kohli around batsmen like Faf du Plessis, Glenn Maxwell, and Dinesh Karthik, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) boast of a powerful run-making lineup in IPL 2022. But it was a disappointing campaign for Kohli, only before they met Gujarat Titans on Thursday evening at Wankhede Stadium.

Kohli’s ardent fans know how exactly their idol has become the most successful batter in the last ten years. The Indian stalwart closely studies bowlers before launching a tirade against him. However, since 2020, he has not been able to play his natural game more often than not.

As a result, the prolonged wait for Kohli’s 71st international century continues. His 70th came against Bangladesh at Eden Gardens, back in November 2019. A normal human being can understand how tough this period has been for him, someone who has almost completed every difficult feat throughout his career.

This year, Kohli is nowhere near to fluent best in the Indian Premier League (IPL), where crowds witnessed some of his sublime artistry in the past. From 13 outings, he had only managed 236 runs at a questionable strike rate (under 115). Neither as No. 3 nor as an opener worked for the former RCB skipper until they went up against the table-toppers Gujarat Titans (GT) on Thursday evening.

After Hardik Pandya had opted to bat, GT got to 168/5 on a not-so-batting-friendly Wankhede track. Kohli was well aware of the fact if they did not get to the target, RCB would automatically eliminate from the Playoffs contentions.

It was a difficult task against a potent GT bowling attack, which comprises Rashid Khan, Mohammed Shami, Lockie Ferguson, and a full-fit Hardik. Kohli began well by bringing his bottom hand into play. He lofted a length ball, bowled by Shami, over his head to get a magnificent four. Then, in the same over (third), he came on the front foot to play over cover the cover fielders. There were crisp timings on both occasions.

But then, Kohli got lucky in the next over, twice in successive balls, bowled by Hardik. First, he got a thick inside edge, which went just past the stumps before it went for four towards fine leg. The former RCB skipper moved towards the leg side to play a fullish delivery towards the deep square leg. Had Rashid Khan been placed at the boundary line, it would have been a simple catch.

From there on, whatever Kohli pulled off in front of the Wankhede crowds was one entertaining stroke after another.

I don't associate his lack of form with a mental break. He is working hard and he knows exactly what he needs to do with his game. We underestimate how consuming captaincy is and for a player who was seven years in the job, in all three formats, who meant so much to the team from a batting perspective, from an emotional perspective, from the leadership perspective and the captaincy. That's overwhelming."

Daniel Vettori (To ESPNCricinfo).

Notably, Kohli’s both sixes came against Rashid. The first one was over deep mid-wicket while completing his 33-ball fifty by absorbing pressure. The next one was he slammed over long-off, which was nothing but the touch of elegance. Although Afghanistan’s supremo had the last laugh, there was little contest left at that point.

Kohli’s on-field actions while scoring an exemplary 54-ball 73 conveyed how much he valued this knock. He was pumped up when Rashid missed the chance at deep, and a ball before was celebrating in front of Hardik after getting that inside edge. He believed in all the tireless hours he spent during the nets, and the result has come perhaps at the most critical stage for RCB.

Virat had been putting in the hard yards in the nets. I play the role with him and get him pumped up. He has got so much emotion and he pulls you through. It is as if you are playing a rugby game."

Faf du Plessis (at post-match presentation).

Well, no one knows where RCB’s fate lies, as a win for Delhi Capitals (DC) against Mumbai Indians (MI) would knock them over from IPL 2022. But Virat did what he could do and now, the time will tell the rest.

“I have worked really hard (for this),” Kohli said at the post-match presentation after winning the Player of the Match award. “I batted 90 minutes in the nets yesterday. I came in very free and relaxed. It is in that spur of the moment why is it happening to me.

“I won't be standing here being ungrateful for all that I have achieved. With the very first shot of Shami, I felt I could hit lengths balls over the fielder's head. I knew that tonight was the night when I could kick on. It has been wonderful that I have got so much support in this edition. I am forever grateful for all the love that I have never seen before.”

There were conflicting opinions on Kohli’s last few outings. Those who know how tough the bio-bubble life is, have urged him to take a long break. The others have opined that these cheap dismissals are only coming because of his lack of focus. Let us not get into the debate. Let us enjoy whenever the maestro executes the cover drives with perfection. Let us enjoy whenever he successfully performs in tough situations with a full range of strokes.

After so many forgettable nights, Kohli’s irrepressible aggression while batting at the crease attracted crowds. He has been a youth icon. He has been a hero for so many years. It was a much-anticipated knock, not only for him but the world of cricket which adores him as a role model.

It might not be an extraordinary inning from Kohli’s bat, but his elbow and head position were so accurate at Wankhede that it seems like he has started to feel reasonably comfortable again. We all love that particular Kohli, don’t we?

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