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The Return Of The King – Virat Kohli Dominates Pakistan In T20 World Cup Opener

India's Virat Kohli celebrates after beating Pakistan by 4 wickets during ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2022
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Sunday, the 23rd of October 2022, was one of those rare where were you moments. Where were you when Kapil Dev took that running catch to dismiss Vivian Richards? Where were you when Sachin Tendulkar upper-cut Shoaib Akthar into oblivion? Where were you when MS Dhoni lit up the Mumbai night sky to win the World Cup for team India? And now, where were you when King Kohli was resurrected in Melbourne, providing the world with another spectacle of his glorious reign?

This was not just any other innings. It was his Mona Lisa, his Rachmaninoff’s third, his Pieta. A moment of such beauty that only when the dust settles and the years pass on can you truly value its significance.

The King is back – Virat Kohli dominates Pakistan in T20 World Cup

 

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It was a night that cemented the legend of Virat Kohli. A performance bending towards the mythical, with 90,000 strong scarcely believing what they had witnessed. To play such a knock, on this stage, at this venue, against this opposition, in front of this crowd, from that position. That’s not just greatness, it is god-like.

Kohli walked into bat in the second over with the sight of victory still a mountain away. The ball was hooping around corners, and survival was the primary agenda. The task got tougher as Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav departed without denting the target before Axar Patel was run out unceremoniously, leaving just three specialist batters remaining in the Indian ranks.

As long as Virat Kohli was at the crease, there is always hope, but even the most optimistic Indian cricket fan would have had to do some mind-bending arithmetic to imagine a victory from that scenario. Kohli and Pandya steadied the ship after the early carnage, but the pair failed to manufacture a single boundary in the first 24 balls of their partnership, leaving team India at 45 for four at the halfway mark, needing 115 from the next 60.

 

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29 runs from the following two overs from the spinners brought down the required rate to more realistic territory, but the fiery Pakistan pacers were still almost impossible to get away. Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf’s hard lengths made it increasingly difficult to find consistent scoring options, and a couple of tight overs meant that 48 runs were needed off the final 18 deliveries.

That is where the legend of Virat Kohli begins. The moment that separates the elite from the ordinary.

Kohli first took down Shaheen Afridi. A pull shot through mid-wicket, a drive over cover and a flick past fine leg. Three laser-eyed boundaries that showcased immense game awareness and skill helped team India take 17 off the 18th over, keeping them in the hunt for a little longer.

The next adversary was Haris Rauf. The final boss of all bosses. Playing in the BBL for the Stars, Rauf understood the MCG dimensions like the back of his hand. He also had the tools needed to exploit any batters’ shortcomings in this colosseum, with the pace and accuracy to hit a back of a length that make it almost impossible for any batter to clear the endlessly long square boundaries.

Not for Kohli, though. The genius number three waited back in his crease and picked the slower ball before swatting Rauf back over his head for six. Read this description from RCB analyst Freddie Wilde to understand how extraordinary that shot was.

One ball later, Kohli got inside the line and swung the ball behind deep backward square. Suddenly 28 from eight had become 16 from the last over.

What followed in the final six legal deliveries from Mohammad Nawaz cannot be explained in words. A wicket, a no-ball, a free-hit, a six, a wide, some byes, a wicket, another wide, a collective sigh of relief, an outcry of jubilation.

As Ravichandran Ashwin hit the winning runs over cover and wheeled off in celebration, we saw a rare moment of humanity from the King. A tear strolled down Kohli’s face as he looked towards the Melbourne sky. The past 24 months have been filled with self-doubt, questions, and criticism. Kohli has been judged by the shadow of his own accomplishments, those 70 tons weighing him down as he tries to scale the summit of his prior legend. A billion supporters turned into a billion questions.

 

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The public had to contend with the idea that Virat Kohli’s greatness had elapsed. Father time and a never-ending schedule had robbed him of his powers. The chase was no longer clinical, the cover drives met more edges than middles, and the average in free fall.

Kohli had to overcome way more than just the Pakistani bowling attack to get back to the summit at the MCG, and the struggles that passed made the moment even sweeter. In time, Kohli will fail again, and the end is closer than the beginning. But this performance for team India against Pakistan at the World Cup proved that his reign is not over yet. There is plenty left to conquer.

 

[Featured Image Credit: ANI]

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