Cricket World Cup 2019: Virat Kohli applauds game-changer Yuzvendra Chahal and disciplined Jasprit Bumrah
Virat Kohli was effusive in his praise of Yuzvendra Chahal and Jasprit Bumrah. © AFP

SOUTHAMPTON: After a week of no action, India opened their account at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 with a six-wicket win over South Africa at Southampton on Wednesday to make a strong statement.

Touted widely as one of the tournament favourites, Virat Kohli‘s team ticked several boxes at the Rose Bowl: their bowlers were on the field for 50 overs, Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal struck telling blows, Rohit Sharma scored his 23rd ODI century, the middle order got some vital time in the middle and India’s innings spanned nearly 50 overs.

All of this, in Kohli’s view, made for a very pleasing victory. In his words, a “professional” effort that underlined their skill in the format and status of being ranked second in ODIs. To get a win in India’s first World Cup match gave Kohli plenty of satisfaction, and after the match he was thankful for the team’s three main architects.

While he termed Rohit’s unbeaten 122 off 144 deliveries as the batsman’s best ODI hundred, Kohli was equally wholesome in his praise of Bumrah and Chahal. Playing their first World Cup games, Bumrah and Chahal combined for six wickets as India controlled South Africa’s innings for the most part, the result being a total of 227/9 in 50 overs.

(ALSO READ: Rohit Sharma’s 122* guides India to six-wicket win)

Bumrah, ranked No 1 in ODIs, began with a testing spell of pace, accuracy and occasional bounce, which accounted for the wickets of South African openers Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla. Those scalps gave India an opening, which Chahal widened with four wickets – shared in two spells of five overs each.

Two of them came in one over, the 20th of South Africa’s innings, which in Kohli’s estimation were game-changing.

“The spinners together also understood and realised that that is the scenario and they bowled accordingly. I think Kuldeep [Yadav] bowled really well, he controlled the game from one end and I think Chahal was outstanding,” said Kohli. “The way he mixed his pace, the ball wasn’t turning so much, but even with a little bit of turn and help from the pitch what he was able to bring out of the wicket was truly brilliant to see. And breaking that crucial partnership and picking two wickets in an over was, I think, a game-changing moment for us, so both of them were brilliant in the middle overs.”

(FULL SCORECARD: INDIA vs SOUTH AFRICA, SOUTHAMPTON)

Kuldeep and Chahal famously combined for 33 wickets in South Africa in early 2018, which helped India win an ODI series for the first time in that country (by a 5-1 margin). Kohli spoke of the learnings from that series as India went into their World Cup opener against South Africa, and how the two wrist-spinners’ success in South Africa forced the team management to reunite them here instead of going for Ravindra Jadeja’s left-arm spin.

Yuzvendra Chahal World Cup
Yuzvendra Chahal took 4/51 on World Cup debut against South Africa. © AFP

“A massive factor. We spoke about the fact the last time we played them, they were not that confident against our spinners,” he said. “What we experienced was they were not able to rotate strike so well. They were trying to hit their way out of a situation which, for a captain, any day I would love batsmen trying to hit boundaries to get out of trouble rather than rotating strike because the risk factor is high.”

For Kohli, what impressed him hugely about Bumrah is the bowler’s belief and ability to produce wicket-taking deliveries. In particular, the ones that sit up and surprise batsman.

“He believes the length ball is something that he can nick people off with, whether it is a flat pitch, whether it’s assisting bowlers or not, he can nick you off on any wicket and he has that belief now, which as a batsman, I know a bowler has that kind of belief, he is not going to do anything different to me, he is going to bowl consistently and still can get me out with good balls,” he said. “The way he’s bowling right now, it’s so, so good to see because when you see batsmen literally clueless against him and he’s rushing people.:

Kohli pinpointed Bumrah’s extraction of Amla as a rare instance. Off ball that hit a good length, Amla was hurried into a defensive shot. The ball got big on him and found the edge to Rohit at second slip.

“To be honest, I haven’t seen Hashim get out like that in one-day cricket,” gushed Kohli. “He’s been so dominant. He might play shots and get out, but to get guys out like that, rushing them a bit, I think it’s a great thing and it’s a testimony to his [Bumrah’s] hard work.

“He is very disciplined. He is working really hard at practice, in the gym, with his diet, with his rest. He understands this is his time and he’s making the most of it so hats off, he’s brilliant. He has the right attitude towards the game and he’s going to be a massive factor for us here.”

India next play Australia at The Oval on June 9.