On March 18, 2012, Virat Kohli plundered a magnificent 183 against Pakistan at the Asia Cup in Dhaka to guide India to a resounding victory. Chasing a huge target of 330, Kohli made it look like a walk in the park as India romped home without too many hiccups. While beating Pakistan is always a momentous occasion for the Indian team, the importance of this game was known to the cricketing world several months later. The youngster had not only done the unthinkable, but had safely taken the baton from the great Sachin Tendulkar.
It was a knock that placed Kohli in a different zone all together. India had won the World Cup in 2011, but had suffered a horrendous run away from home. During the Australia tour that preceded the Asia Cup, Kohli was one bright spot to emerge from an otherwise forgettable campaign. In his last innings on that sojourn, he bludgeoned 133 not out to help India chase down 321 inside 40 overs in a One-Day International (ODI) against Sri Lanka. Lasith Malinga — who is arguably the most feared limited overs bowler in the world — was treated with utter contempt as Kohli nonchalantly flicked him across the park.
Coming into the all-important clash against Pakistan, India had to win to have any chance of qualifying for the final of the Asia Cup. Their embarrassing defeat at the hands of Bangladesh had put them in a very precarious position and the fans demanded nothing but a win. Things looked bleak for India as Nasir Jamshed and Mohammad Hafeez guided Pakistan to 329 in 50 overs. The enormity of the score, the challenge to make it to the final and the fact that they were up against the arch-rivals were the perfect ingredients of a high pressure situation.
In the face of the daunting task, in walked India’s new found champion to join the man who (in Kohli’s own words) "had carried the burden of the nation for 21 years."
Gautam Gambhir was dismissed off the second ball without a run on the board and India’s hopes rested on the experience of Tendulkar and the exuberance of Kohli. The world watched in anticipation as the future batted with the iconic figure for India’s cause.
The duo took the attack to Pakistan almost immediately and was intent on dominating the bowling. Kohli was carrying forward his rich vein of form, while Tendulkar was a relieved man following his 100th international hundred. The tyro was ready to pull and cut anything shot, flick anything onto his pad and drive anything full. At the other end, the veteran provided a blast from the past as he upper cut and played with his trademark class.
Kohli played with the Tendulkar-like panache of the 1990s which threw the wind into the sails. The determination in his eyes was reminiscent of Tendulkar’s intensity during the twin Sharjah knocks against Australia. It all looked easy with him in the middle as the Pakistan bowlers were hit when they got it right and severely punished when they erred. In every sense, it was an statement from Kohli that he was ready to carry forward Tendulkar’s legacy into the future.
In the 1990s, Tendulkar was often the only hope in the Indian batting. He made the public believe that miracles were possible on the field of play and that his bat worked like a magical wand. Even though the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman etc. emerged to take the burden off him, Tendulkar’s aura was unparalleled.
With the heroics at Hobart against Sri Lanka and the breathtaking display against Pakistan, Kohli too said that miracles were possible. In fact, during India’s tough phase in 2011-12, he was that Tendulkar-like lone figure in the side on whom the entire team depended. After Tendulkar’s dismissal in the game against Pakistan, he stitched a partnership with another promising youngster — Rohit Sharma — to turn the tide completely in India’s favour.
The victory was achieved with balls to spare and the arch rivals were beaten. Kohli fell with India on the cusp of victory, but by then the result was a foregone conclusion. While, India may not have qualified for the final, the victory in itself bears tremendous significance and was a remarkable occasion in hindsight.
Ironically, it was Tendulkar's last ODI and Kohli had chosen the occasion to announce his arrival as India’s saviour. Tendulkar could walk away with the assurance that his legacy was in safe hands. Kohli was there to carve his own niche and take India to winning ways.
Brief Scores: Pakistan 329 for 6 in 50 overs (Nasir Jamshed 112, Mohammad Hafeez 105, Younis Khan 52) lost to India 330 for 4 in 47.5 overs (Virat Kohli 183, Rohit Sharma 68, Sachin Tendulkar 52) by 6 wickets with 13 balls to spare.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site's YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)
First Published: March 18, 2013, 5:22 pm