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Grit over pomp for Virat Kohli

Last updated on 21 Jul 2023 | 01:37 AM
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Grit over pomp for Virat Kohli

The former Indian skipper showed how to bat on a fairly sedate surface at the Queen's Park in Trinidad

Yet another day where attritional cricket took center stage. And this was attritional cricket of the highest order. If the first and last session saw Indian batters bide their time and accumulate runs, the middle session saw the hosts stage some sort of a comeback. 

The day began with Kraigg Brathwaite winning the toss and, surprisingly, opting to bowl first. "There's some moisture on the pitch" is how he rationalized the decision. While moisture might not have played as big a role as Brathwaite would have hoped, there was plenty of enthralling action throughout the first day. 

The Holder-Jaiswal duel

After ending the first session strongly, Yashasvi Jaiswal had a nervy start to the second session. In the 18 balls he faced post lunch, he had only two scoring shots, and one of them was off an edge. 

The tight lines bowled by Jason Holder and Shannon Gabriel made Jaiswal even more fidgety. He began to play a lot more away from his body, and Holder exploited just that. Following a series of dot balls where Jaiswal was beaten repeatedly on length balls angled away from him, Holder slipped a fuller one. 

Jaiswal’s eyes lit up as he went hard at it. An edge was produced, and the debutante Kirk McKenzie was not dropping these. 

Ajinkya Rahane and Shubman Gill fail, yet again

One with a chequered past, the other with a bright future. And both find themselves in somewhat similar situations. The former made a comeback to the Test setup on the back of some strong performances in the IPL and a well-made 50 in the WTC final. A lot of question marks were raised when he made it to the squad for the series. #SabJawaabMilenge, anyone?

Sure, Ajinkya Rahane was fantastic in the summit clash. But, given that this was the beginning of the next WTC cycle, this series was a good opportunity to try out India’s bench strength. Also, the Mumbaikar was dropped in the first place because of a discernible lack of consistency. That continues to be the case with him in this series as well.

Then there’s Shubman Gill. It seemed like he was still finding his feet at the top of the order when he decided to go down a position to #3. While the sacrifice is appreciated, was it necessary? 

“He told Rahul bhai that he has played all of his cricket at #3 and #4 and that he can do better for the team at #3,” is what the Indian skipper had to say a week ago, ahead of the Test series. 

It is important to note here that Shubman has spent the majority of his first-class career as an opener. Of the 76 first-class innings he has been a part of, he’s opened the innings in 57 of them. Even staggering is the fact that he averages 46.3 while opening and 36.2 while coming in at #3. Two innings and a couple of low scores later, it remains to be seen how the think-tank view this experiment. 

King Kohli shows up

Virat Kohli’s half-century today was just the second instance of him scoring consecutive fifties since 2020. A reflection of both his past drought and current form. 

And just like most of his recent fifties, he shed flamboyance for efficiency and patience. He took 20 balls for his first run, the second-most for him ever. Even today, his innings progression was all class. If his first twenty balls got him just the solitary run, his next 20 balls got him 16 runs. 

Since 2020, Kohli has scored over 40% of his runs against pacers through just two shots, cover drive (21.8%) and flick shot (18.4%). No other stroke has yielded him more than 10% of his runs. Just goes on to show how limited he has become when it comes to strokeplay.

He’ll begin his day tomorrow at an unbeaten 87, and all of us fans will be rooting to witness another Kohli special. 

Kohli’s slow start had as much to do with his willingness to grind as it had with WI bowlers’ consistent lines. Very rarely did they get it wrong, and Kohli ensured that he cashed in on any such opportunities. Barring the odd ball down the leg or pitched a bit fuller, they were pretty much on the money all day. It’s no surprise that his 161-ball-stay yielded him just eight boundaries. 

Despite seven of his boundaries coming on the off-side, it's the ones pitched on the stumps that helped him keep the scoreboard ticking. 

West Indies bowlers bring their A game

Bowling the new ball to Jaiswal and Rohit Sharma didn’t go according to plan, as they ended up being a bit too wayward in the first session. It also didn’t help that they pitched it a tad too short on multiple occasions. Both the openers were up to the task when it came to anything that wasn’t pitched near their end. 

Jaiswal’s dismissal early on in the second session meant that they had to bowl to four RHBs one after the other. This helped them hit the hard lengths a lot more consistently. And is reflected in their returns. Post Jaiswal’s dismissal, there was a phase in play when West Indies came back in strongly, taking three wickets for 16 runs.

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