Virat Kohli walks back after scoring a splendid 49 versus Pakistan © AFP
Virat Kohli walks back after scoring a splendid 49 versus Pakistan © AFP

Virat Kohli is only 26, and in time to come he will become India’s captain in limited-overs cricket as well. Along the way there will be many more challenges, and surely he will continue to grow as an individual, as captain, and most importantly, as a batsman, which is his core strength. But when his glorious career would be looked at many years from now, the innings of 49 against Pakistan in Asia Cup T20 2016 will be right up there among his very best in international cricket, and perhaps his best in T20I. LIVE CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs Pakistan, Asia Cup 2016, Match 4 at Dhaka

Before we go any further, those in the Pakistani camp would claim that Kohli had luck on his side — he should have been dismissed on 5 when Mohammad Aamer hit him high on the pads — and the replays showed the ball was clipping the bails. Remember, the umpire had adjudged it not out, and even if there was DRS in place, Kohli would have been safe because the decision would have stayed with the on-field umpire.

Coming back to the topic, in the rush of things on an early Saturday morning I scrambled a few words to write how Virat Kohli is a ‘big match player’ and runs are expected off him against Pakistan. Little did I know, writing in the wee hours, or even those eager to watch this match that Kohli will end up playing one of his finest innings in T20 Internationals.

The purists still look at T20 cricket with disdain; it generally kills the competition between the bat and the ball. But the hosts of Asia Cup 2016, Bangladesh, have surprised one and all by dishing out green-top wickets; suddenly throwing in the rivalry of the bat and ball on which cricket originally exists. ALSO READ: Virat Kohli’s genius trumps Mohammad Aamer’s brilliance as India beat Pakistan by 5 wickets in Asia Cup T20 2016

Surprisingly, for many, this was a comeback game for Aamer. Those unaware, Aamer returned to international cricket when Pakistan toured New Zealand recently. Why they don’t know is not to be wondered: the series wasn’t telecast in India.

Kohli versus Aamer or Aamer versus Kohli, whichever way you want to put it, was always going to be a contest to die for, irrespective of the format. Aamer, despite being away from cricket for five long years, looked like he was always there, challenging the batsmen with thick willows with his wily bowling skills. ALSO READ: India vs Pakistan, Asia Cup T20 2016 Match 4 at Dhaka: Highlights from 1st innings

In only 2 overs, 12 deliveries to be precise, Aamer showed what cricket missed for half a decade just because it has been inattentive (to an extent) towards the dangers that have been around. In only 12 deliveries Aamer showed how obliterating he could be, sadly, there were only 4 overs allowed to him.

Amidst that brilliance shown by the 23-year-old Pakistani pacer, was the battle-hardened Indian who has already embarked on the road to greatness years ago. He was coming off a poor match against a lowly Bangladesh — because they are yet to find mojo in Tests as well as T20Is. Kohli knew, with Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane dismissed early, that if India had to win, he will have to be there till the end.

Rahul Dravid once spoke about weathering the storms, of letting the bowlers have their say, of letting the fielders chirp around you. He asked young batsmen to hang around and face it all, and assured them of success till it all lasted. On Saturday night, Kohli looked like he was walking the same path shown by Dravid.

Kohli resisted, left many balls alone, and utmost he tried to nudge for singles because the format demanded him to keep scoring. And when the pressure fizzled out and he had hit two fours in a row off Aamer, emerged a giant, who Pakistan could never defeat. Kohli steered India from a position where they would have crumbled to what it should have been a 7-wicket crushing — had India not lost him and Hardik Pandya in a jiffy. Nevertheless.

Unfortunately for those who did not watch the contest as it transpired, they may never be able to understand how great it was, in terms of sheer intensity and skills. Not sure how many would be acknowledging it, but this was surely Kohli’s greatest knocks in T20Is, that too against India’s arch rivals.

(Devarchit Varma is senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)