“It was meant to be,” the 33-year-old Virat Kohli uttered, sending a 90,000+ crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) into a frenzy. India were chasing 160 on the night but were put under tremendous pressure by Pakistan, as they were reduced to 26/3, and then 31/4.
And then, it was meant to be, the 33-year-old soaked in all the pressure and executed one of the best T20I innings of all-time, stitching a crucial partnership with all-rounder Hardik Pandya. While he was slow to start the proceedings, Kohli picked up his strike-rate over the time, as India chased down 115 runs in the last 10 overs.
In run-chases across all T20 World Cups, Kohli has the best record, with an average of 270, with 541 runs in ten innings, silencing the critics after a lull period in international cricket. Kohli remained not-out, scoring 82 off 53 ball as India pulled off probably the biggest heist in T20 World Cup history. He was ably supported by the all-rounder Pandya, who scored 40 off 37 balls.
"Well, it's a surreal atmosphere. I honestly have no words. I have no idea how that happened. Hardik kept telling me, just believe we can stay till the end. I'm lost for words. Well, I think when Shaheen bowled from the Pavilion end, I told Hardik we have to take him down,” Kohli said at the post-match presentation.
Leading up to the 20th over, the equation was nearly in Pakistan’s favour if not for the twin sixes from the former Indian skipper, who turned the screw around. Kohli said that the calculation was fairly straightforward, it was in the 33-year-old’s radar to take on Haris Rauf.
“The calculation was simple. Nawaz had one over to bowl, so if I could take Haris down, they would panic. It came down to 16 off 6. I'm kind of lost for words. [On the two sixes off Rauf:] It's just instinctively I saw it, told myself to stay still. The one at long-on was unexpected, it was a back-of-a-length slower ball. The fine leg one, I just threw my bat at it,” he added.
Back in 2016, Kohli had put on a show against Australia, scoring 82 off 51 in Mohali, which was till date considered one of the best knocks of all-time. But the 33-year-old reckoned that this knock just might have tipped past that, owing to the high-pressure situation.
“Till today I said Mohali was my best T20 innings. Then I got 82 off 52, today I got 82 off 53. Both are just as special. All these months when I was struggling, you guys [the crowd] kept me going. Thank you so much."
Kohli was perhaps out of touch for sometime but now, he looks hungrier than ever. And the 82 off 53 balls just signifies his importance for the Men in Blue, as they look to break the long jinx of not winning the T20 World Cup. It was just meant to be.