India vs England: Kohli Walks The Talk As India’s New Aggressive Strategy Pays Off
Virat Kohli was under pressure after the thumping loss in the T20I series opener to England in Ahmedabad. Firstly he was out for a duck and was going through his leanest patch in international cricket. To add to his personal woes he was questioned for his team selection resting Rohit Sharma in the first match of such a big series against the best opposition at full strength. The reserve opener Shikhar Dhawan looked out of sorts and was dismissed cheaply. India’s new found strategy of going all-out all guns blazing right from the start till the end had failed. But Kohli, not one to shy away from the challenge, made it clear that the new plan was there to stay and just needed better execution.
That is what exactly transpired in the second match at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. India won a good toss and not surprisingly decided to chase – batting second is historically an advantage in the shortest format of the game. With some dew in the late evening and given the depth and destructive batting prowess of both the teams, planning a chase is an easier proposition than setting a target.
But where Kohli walked the talk was in backing his aggressive attacking strategy. He dropped the veteran Dhawan realising that the left-hander did not have a great record for India in T20I cricket and there were only limited opportunities to select the best combination before the World T20 in October. But instead of drafting back the great Rohit Sharma which would have meant that he would have had to swallow a bit of pride, he took a big gamble and gave the in-form Ishan Kishan an international debut.
Kishan was in splendid form for Mumbai Indians in IPL 2020. He was the leading scorer for the franchise and scored big runs at a very high strike rate from various positions throughout the season. He had also tasted success as an opener but it needed guts, courage and vision to give him his first break in a big match for India against the toughest opposition in the world. It could have gone horribly wrong for the home team had Kishan been dismissed cheaply and India lost their way in the chase. The whole cricketing world would have gunned for Kohli’s head questioning his decision to give the 22 year old his debut in a high pressure match against the number one ranked team in the world.
But as it turned out Kishan produced a Player of the Match Performance smashing a match-defining 56 off just 32 deliveries and put together a match-winning stand of 94 off just 56 deliveries with skipper Kohli. The Indian captain himself made a big statement anchoring the chase to perfection remaining unbeaten on a fine 73 off 49 deliveries. He played around the two more attacking batsmen at the other end – Kishan and Rishabh Pant and took India to a crushing seven-wicket win with 13 balls to spare. Kohli gave glimpses of his prodigious strokeplay during the course of his innings – his lofted on-drive off Tom Curran to reach his fifty was an all-time classic. He finished the match in style with a whip to the square leg boundary before pulling Jordan for a six over fine leg in the process becoming the first batsman to make it to 3000 runs in T20I cricket history.
Kohli took a risk by playing Kishan and it paid off. This is what separates the great players and captains from the average ones. He could have easily stuck to Dhawan and played it safe. Even while chasing after losing the wicket of their run-machine, KL Rahul early in the innings, he allowed Kishan and then Pant to play their natural aggressive game keeping in mind India’s larger vision of being aggressive in order to beat the best teams more consistently in the format. India were not chasing a very stiff target and could have gone about their chase in the conventional way – building the innings initially and then with wickets in hand attack later.
But no. That is not the approach and method this Indian team wants to adopt any more in T20I cricket. With depth in their batting resources they want to dominate and dictate from the word go – like England have done over the last couple of years with phenomenal success. It is a high risk high gain strategy and one that requires tremendous courage, will, talent, skill and planning and execution.
The incumbent Indian captain is perhaps the most motivated player in the history of international cricket. He is headstrong and very seldom does not achieve what he sets his sights on. For the moment he is hellbent on executing this new brand of attacking cricket in the T20 format and will do everything in his power to make sure that the team succeeds.
If what happened at Motera on Sunday is anything to go by Kohli and his men are damn well on the right track.
Pundits and analysts are quick to criticize the Indian captain at the earliest given opportunity – it has almost become a habitual necessity for a certain section.
Time to give him his due for intent and execution when its highly due.