Kohli had already announced that he would step down from T20 captaincy after that World Cup, and that defeat was a massive blow to his desire to move away after winning an ICC trophy as the captain.
The disappointments did not end there. Kohli could not hold on to India’s ODI and Test captaincy and his willow continued to produce empty music.
T20 WORLD CUP SPECIAL PAGE
Have we lost Kohli forever? The Asia Cup 2022 in the UAE gave us hints that Kohli is on his way back. A hundred against Afghanistan and couple of other good knocks might have placed him on a good mind space ahead of the T20 World Cup 2022.
But the T20 WC is a completely different beast. It is the grandest stage of the shortest format and here it was being played at the MCG, in front of 90000+ crowd and the opponent was Pakistan.
Pressure might have been Godzilla sized. But Kohli did not waver even after India stared down at the wrong end of the barrel at 31 for 4 chasing 160 against a set of Pakistan bowlers adept in the T20 format.
He continued to chip away at the target, first sedately and then later with the ferocity and calculation of a hunter.
Kohli reached 46 off 42 balls, and then moved to 50 with a stunning pull off Shaheen Shah Afridi, and the fifty came in 43 balls. In that over, the 18th of the innings, Kohli carved Afridi for 15 runs and Pakistan’s biggest weapon was neutralised emphatically.
Overall, Kohli required just 10 more balls to score the remaining 33 runs, including those two astounding sixes off Haris Rauf, Pakistan’s most impressive bowler of the day. It was once in a generation player dishing out that innings on the big stage.
The Chase Master is back, then. Skipper Rohit Sharma acknowledged it. “I honestly don’t think he was struggling with form. He was batting as good as he was, but with him, the expectations is always so high that even if he gets a good 30 or 40, people tend to talk about it.
From the team management perspective, I thought he was in good space right from the Asia Cup where he got a month off and then he came back to Asia Cup. He was fresh, got a brilliant hundred there, got a couple of fifties if I’m not wrong, leading up to the World Cup.
We know the quality that he has, and he’s done so well in these type of conditions in all three forms. Obviously, he used his experience today more than anything else, staying calm under pressure, and we know how good he is when the score is in front of him. He’s one of the best chasers in the world,” said Rohit in the post-match presser.
Rohit, who has 4 T20I hundreds against his name, did not hesitate to rate Kohli’s 83 as one of the best T20I innings by an India batter.
“His definitely best for sure, but I think from the situation we were in, and to come out with a victory, I think it has to be one of India’s best knocks, not just his best knock, because until the 13th over we were so behind the game, and the required rate was just climbing up and up. But to come out and chase that score was an extremely brilliant effort from Virat,” said Rohit.
And that brilliant effort came a year later against the same opponent in the same tournament and at a grander stage.
Champions never really go away, isn’t it!