T20 World Cup 2022, Semi-final 2: Why Virat Kohli Is Bad News For England, Kevin Pietersen Explains
T20 World Cup 2022, Semi-final 2 - Why Virat Kohli Is Bad News For England, Kevin Pietersen Explains (BCCI)

Virat Kohli has been a classic case of the saying that cricket is a great leveller. Everything, well almost, about the Indian cricket team at the ICC T20 Men’s World Cup in Australia, has been around the former captain, whose international form had been a cause for concern for more than two years.

But there was never any doubt that Kohli would overcome the lean patch and even though the BCCI gave him some tough time with all the unnecessary drama around captaincy, Virat Kohli weathered the storm and managed his impulsive nature to come back roaring in the ongoing World Cup.

It must be reckoned that Kohli’s battle to regain his mental strength emerged due to an ecosystem that surrounded him. While head coach Rahul Dravid and skipper Rohit Sharma constantly showed their belief in him, one must not forget the unseen role of Kohli’s actress wife, Anushka Sharma, who has played the role of the better half to perfection.

For classy players like Virat Kohli, a lot of cricket is played in the mind. The coordination between brain and body is the ultimate equation in sport. Results are directly proportional to perfection and in a game of fine margin like cricket, mistakes can be glaring. A hostile atmosphere only created doubts in Kohli’s mind. After all, he is a human being.

Extra-ordinary sportspersons are those who can conquer mental demons quickly. For, grammatically correct batsmen like Virat Kohli need not be told what’s the perfect head, elbow and feet position to drive all along the carpet or what’s the right balance to play a short-arm pull to the mid-wicket fence. It’s all about belief and the mental guarantee that the ball will meet the sweet spot nine times out of 10! It’s executing strokes from memory.

“I backed him (Kohli) throughout the little loss of form that he had, and he’s had a lot to deal with. He’s an entertainer, he needs crowds, he needs that buzz, he needs that excitement. He didn’t have that for a few years, and he lost his way. But the crowds are in, it’s a T20 World Cup in Australia one of the greatest places to play T20 cricket and the King is back,” Kevin Pietersen said ahead of Thursday’s India versus England T20 World Cup final in Adelaide.

Pietersen would know about mental gremlins and hostile dressing rooms. He was dropped from the England squad after the 5-0 Ashes whitewash in Australia in 2014 for being a ‘divisive’ force that disturbed captain Alastair Cook’s peace of mind. Kohli should be thankful that there was no such evil force inside the dressing room but largely outside it. Dravid and Rohit Sharma’s support reflects in Kohli’s body language and there was ample evidence of the media’s love and support for the former skipper on his 34th birthday on November 5.

Much of India’s success in this T20 World Cup has been attributed to Kohli. Although the entire team has contributed its might but Kohli’s good form, according to Pietersen, has inspired young men like Surya Kumar Yadav to demonstrate freedom and play strokes that reflect a happy ambience.

“For India, Kohli is such a major component for them to start seeing some consistency. When Virat plays well, the other players start to perform around him. You saw that with Suryakumar Yadav and the innings he played against Zimbabwe, it was just spectacular. When your talisman is back, it helps massively,” said Kevin Pietersen.

Pietersen hopes Kohli will have one bad day against England in Thursday’s semifinal. “As a close friend, I’m very happy for him, but I would like Kohli to have a little bit of a break on Thursday,” said the former South African-born star, adding England had the all-round quality to beat India and set up a final against Pakistan.

For the record, England (215-7 in 20 overs) had defeated India (198-7 in 20) by 17 runs when two teams met last time in a T20 International at Nottingham on July 10, 2022. Kohli scored 11 off six balls in that match while Surya Kumar’s Yadav’s magnificent 117 off 55 balls went in vain. So, there is a lot to settle at the Adelaide Oval this time.

(Soumitra Bose is a veteran journalist and research scholar. He tweets @soumitra65. Views are personal)