Kohli-powered India will be a fire-up unit should they make it to the CB Series finals

The run-rate 13.56 run-rate achieved by Virat Kohli (left) and Suresh Raina during the plunder against Sri Lanka at Hobart is the highest ever for India in a 100-plus partnership in all ODIs © Getty Images

By Karthik Parimal

 

It is amazing to see how certain individuals or teams create an escape route when they are cornered. The quote “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you’ve got” certainly holds true. How else could one explain India’s breathtaking turnaround against Sri Lanka that was in stark contrast to the way they had been performing since the last few months?

 

Tuesday’s match was bound to reflect the mindset of the Indian team. They found themselves in a do or die situation. They had two options: One was to go through the motions and catch the first flight back home, thereby putting an end to their misery as soon as possible. The second was to fight and play out of their skins as this could possibly give them a chance of making a backdoor entry into the finals. It was heart-warming to see the World Champions opt for the latter option, as India’s chase of 321 in 36.4 overs became the quickest successful one of scores over 300 in One-Day Internationals (ODI). The intent and hunger to win was still intact.

 

This had to be Virat Kohli’s finest ODI knock till date. The feeling he would have experienced after guiding his team to a miraculous win, especially when the chips were down, must have been unfathomable. He was the only Indian player to show signs of resurgence consistently after overcoming a few hiccups during the initial part of the tour, and fortunately for India, he peaked at the right time. A knock like this often changes the way a player thinks. Kohli has announced his arrival on the world stage. Yes, he has scored a considerable amount of centuries before this one, but this knock — which even Kohli believes to be his best in the overs-limit format – will help him grow immensely. Such innings are sure to instil enormous amounts of confidence.

 

Well begun is half done. After posting the first score of above 300 in this series, it would have been understandable if the Sri Lankans had assumed that their job was more than half done considering the poor form the Indian batsmen are in of late. That the Indians would come out all guns blazing was unexpected to an extent. However, that is how the nature of sport is. In cricket, the game isn’t over until the last ball has been bowled. And there are many examples of that. Australia will testify that you cannot afford to relax even after posting a total of over 400 in ODIs. Then newbies Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif’s stunning partnership helped India clinch a miraculous win over England during the finals of the NatWest Trophy a decade ago.Sri Lanka will rue the fact that they did not see this resurgence from India coming. They should have been better prepared.

 

It was commendable the way the rest of the Indian batsmen rallied around the protagonist Kohli. Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar did what was expected of them and got India off to a flyer. Gautam Gambhir provided solid assistance from the other end. Suresh Raina emulated Gambhir but with a much better strike-rate. Kohli was in a trance-like state, putting even the good balls away. What Tuesday’s game has done is helped the Indian batsmen break out of their shells. It is a shame that this renaissance has come at the fag end of this tour. It’s possible that from the Team India’s point of view in the ongoing CB series, it may still be futile. Nevertheless, it has reaffirmed the ability of this Indian team and it will make a difference to their approach should they make it to the finals.

 

Series involving more than two nations sometimes tend to give rise to complex yet funny situations. It is amusing in a way thatIndia will now expect Australia, their rivals since the past three months, to do them a huge favour. But having said that, the Indians have themselves to blame for the situation they currently are in. Australia has always been a fierce unit and it will leave no stone unturned to topple Sri Lanka on Friday and carry that momentum to the finals. The sound thrashing Sri Lankareceived on Tuesday would have dented their morale in a big way. It will take a lot of courage for them to put up a fight against the in-form Aussies. Nonetheless, they do not have an improbable task at hand.

 

However, should Australia beat Sri Lanka on Friday and India make it to the finals, one can expect a transformed Indian side taking the field. The Indians have nothing to lose now. They are bound to play freely and without any pressure. Also, the Hobartgame against Sri Lanka would have boosted the confidence of the Indian batsmen and they will look to make the most of their last outing in Australia this year. Wouldn’t it be a fairytale ending for the Indian supporters if India somehow sneak through to the finals and go on to win the Commonwealth Bank Series? It certainly isn’t impossible now.
 

(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)
 

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