Adelaide and the Virat Kohli area – cricket
“I am waiting for bcci clearance to play in the fourth round against Australia! Cross your fingers, I’ll get a crack at swing swing 4 prank! LOL. “Chris Gayle’s sense of humor may have been too hot to handle in the Indian locker room.
It was the third test in Perth on the 2011-12 tour of Australia, and India had just surrendered in three days. The visitors trailed 3-0 in the series to Australia in the face of a clean sweep. The epitaph of a once formidable hitting formation, consisting of VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, was already being written. None except Tendulkar averaged 25 in that series.
Gayle’s comment on Twitter seemed to clarify the point.
Was it too late for the old guard? Was a shakeup needed, especially after a 4-0 shutout in England earlier that season? The fourth test in Adelaide was the last chance for the legends to respond.
Australia batted first, declaring 604/7 on Day 2 with Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke scoring a double century each. India, by the thirteenth day of the third day, stuttered to 87/4 in response: Gambhir, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, all back in the pavilion.
Enter Virat Kohli at number 6. Peter Siddle’s first ball, a quick and short delivery, whizzed past. Throughout the series he had looked good, especially in Perth, but his bat didn’t hit a game-altering hit. And the signs were ominous in Adelaide.
The combative Australian players had taken a special liking to the 24-year-old, one who didn’t mind giving him back unlike his Indian teammates.
Two tests earlier, in Sydney, Kohli’s face had appeared on the front page of Australian newspapers. “Fingergate” labeled The Melbourne Age, after Kohli had wagged the middle finger at the crowd booing the SCG.
“I agree that cricketers do not have to retaliate. What happens when the crowd says the worst things about your mother and sister? worst I’ve ever heard (sic), ”Kohli tweeted. He got away with a heavy fine, but the Australians had taken notice of the young Indian.
In Adelaide, Kohli needed to control his aggression. He did. Before crossing the 15th, Laxman also fell. Now it was up to Kohli and Wriddhiman Saha (he was playing only his second tryout and after a two-year gap) with only the tail to come. The fight started.
His limited abilities were known, but Kohli, the dominant test hitter who controls the game and delivers most of the time, was still in the works. A tenuous Test debut in the West Indies shortly after the 2011 World Cup victory meant he was not chosen for the next tour of England. Australia was a great challenge and had irritated the hostile crowd.
The battle was intense. Nothing over the top, Kohli used a solid defense to keep the Australians at bay. Nathan Lyon, Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ryan Harris and Clarke kept coming, but Kohli was persistent. The battle of attrition is interspersed with shots raised over the middle or the pull. The 50 was reached in 100 balls. No Indian centurion in the series and Kohli had raised hopes and the prospect of saving India from continuation.
Saha was the perfect ally, but just when it looked like India was going to play a session without losing a wicket, Saha went out with Harris near tea. In the third after the break, two more plots fell. India in 230/8 and Kohli 91 *, was quickly running out of partners. Ishant Sharma, his teammate in Delhi, clashed. His first Hundred Test came out of 199 balls, 13 innings and seven months after debut.
Kohli fell with 116 and India with 272 in total. But it had left the Australian bowlers tired and the follow-up was not enforced. The visitors lost to concede the series 4-0, though Kohli had helped reaffirm determination to back the youngsters.
From being abused at the SCG to receiving a standing ovation at the Adelaide Oval, his fledgling testing career had taken a complete turn in Australia. A love story with Adelaide was born.
When Kohli arrived in Australia in late 2014, he had grown in stature. The batting greats had retired and he was anointed as Captain MS Dhoni’s backup. But he had just endured a batting nightmare in England, against swing and stitching. His account recorded 134 runs in five games, averaging 13.40.
Adelaide once again offered Kohli the chance to climb again, in the first Test. Leading the team when Dhoni served a suspension, he took over the game with impressive centuries in both innings. The cricket world and Australian fans admired the way he dealt with aggression with aggression in a fourth inning chase that would have been achieved had it not been for a lack of support at the other end.
By the time the series ended, he had scored two more centuries and taken over as captain of the event after Dhoni’s dramatic departure from Melbourne.
The circle reached the highest point in 2018-19. This time, Kohli led India to a series-opening victory in Adelaide. He did not mark a century, but he commanded his troops in excellent fashion. India would clinch the 2-1 series, a historic first for India in Australia.
India begins another series of tests in Adelaide, with a day and night game starting on December 17. The pink kookaburra ball and the transition phase between daylight and floodlight look like an added challenge against revenge-hungry rivals two years ago.
As someone who enjoys setting the agenda, Kohli’s halo can shine in the twilight zone.