Virat Kohli has scored two centuries and two half-centuries in four matches in 2016 © Getty Images
Virat Kohli has scored two centuries and two half-centuries in four matches in 2016 © Getty Images

Virat Kohli scored 159 runs at 31.80 in 2008, the year of his international debut. He went on, making 325 runs at 54.16 in 2009, and 995 runs at 47.38 in 2010. He scored well over 1,000 in every subsequent year barring 2015. In 2015 Kohli scored a paltry 623 runs at a meagre 36.64. Meagre for Kohli, that is; 36.64 is still more than the career average of Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, or Ajinkya Rahane. He has played four matches in 2016 so far, and has already scored more than half of what he did in 2015. He averages a whopping 93.25 so far this year with two consecutive centuries and as many fifties. Given his lean run in 2015, it seems like Kohli is making up for a lost year. Things do not look good for the bowlers in 2016. Live Cricket Scorecard: India vs Australia 2015-16, 5th ODI at Sydney

One thing that has always stood out about Kohli’s batting in ODIs is his ability to construct an innings. This is especially true while chasing; barring his lacklustre year in 2015 Kohli’s forte has always been chasing down big scores. Few can forget Kohli’s mind-numbing 133 not out at Hobart against Sri Lanka, his monumental 183 — still his highest ODI score — against Pakistan at Dhaka, his hurricane 52-ball unbeaten 100 against Australia at Jaipur, or the 66-ball 115* against Australia at Nagpur barely a week later. All these innings came in steep chases, and whether single-handedly or in partnership with someone else Kohli ensured India got home. READ: India vs Australia 2015-16, 5th ODI at Sydney: Preview

Unfortunately for him and for India, his 106 at Canberra did not result in a win; this despite Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan all but gift-wrapping the victory on a silver platter. From 277 for 1, India crashed and burned in startling fashion to get bowled out for 323. One could argue that he ought to have seen India home, especially after Dhawan and MS Dhoni got out in the same over, but to fault Kohli for the loss would be criminal. READ: India must look to the past in order to secure their future after shocking loss to Australia in 4th ODI at Canberra

Let us take a look at how Kohli went about his innings at Canberra; it is a template he has perfected over time. Kohli knew exactly whom he would target early in his innings: James Faulkner. Whether it was because of the Faulkner-Kohli banter or something else, Kohli took on Faulkner right from ball one. He hit Faulkner for two boundaries in the first four balls he faced, and then two more in Faulkner’s next over. In between he played out three balls from the more disciplined John Hastings. Neither Nathan Lyon nor Mitchell Marsh were allowed to settle, both getting hit for boundaries. Having raced away to 30 off 18 balls and with Dhawan going well at the other end, Kohli afforded himself a few overs without a boundary. READ: India vs Australia 2015-16, 5th ODI at Sydney: Likely XI for the visitors

Despite not getting the big hits, Kohli ensured the runs kept coming. He did not hit a boundary between the 17th and 33rd balls he faced, but in that time played out only three dot balls. He ran hard, and pushed for converting an easy one into a quick two. He did not allow the bowlers to keep bowling to him, nor did he try anything too extravagant. He was finally dismissed for 106 off 92 balls with 11 fours and a six. Having got a slew of boundaries early on he then set himself up for a long innings and delivered. READ: India’s shocking losses: 6 times defeat was grabbed from the jaws of victory

That Kohli was out playing a loose shot was as much of an anomaly as what followed. Even at the time of his dismissal India were comfortably placed at 278 for 4, needing another 70 at around a run a ball with 6 wickets remaining. Had Rahane, Gurkeerat Singh, Rishi Dhawan, or Ravindra Jadeja shown even a smattering of the match-awareness Kohli had done, India would have cantered home without breaking a sweat. Instead, Gurkeerat and Rishi both tried to hit their way out of trouble when singles would have done the job. Rahane was battling an injured hand, but even when he came in to bat it was possible to chase down the total in singles. Jadeja was ultimately left with too much to do, and had to contend with Umesh Yadav slogging wildly at everything and connecting with nothing.

India will hope that their other batsmen learn a thing or two about how to go about chasing down totals. The next time India is 277 for 1 with Kohli at the crease, he will be expected to stay till the end and see things through. But in the event of a rare failure to see India home, Kohli would hope that his middle and lower order do not collectively press the self-destruct button. Kohli has set the template for successful chases; it us up to his teammates to stick to it.

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek who loves cricket more than cricketers. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)