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When Virat Kohli decided to boss ODI cricket

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Last updated on 28 Feb 2023 | 03:33 AM
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When Virat Kohli decided to boss ODI cricket

On this day, the right-hander from Delhi helped India chase down a mammoth target of 321 inside 40 overs

Despite India's almost flawless run in the 2011 ICC ODI World Cup, which the Men in Blue had won on their home soil, the fans and BCCI needed more certainty about the side's future. 

While they had a stable skipper in MS Dhoni, the side still needed veterans like Sachin Tendulkar, Virendra Sehwag, and Zaheer Khan to hold the anchor. India's legacy of producing the next "batsman of the era" was also at stake, with Tendulkar reaching the fag end of his glorious career.

However, all these hesitancies disappeared on Feb 28, 2012. Interestingly, nothing in India's immediate past had hinted at the things to come. After losing the Test series 4-0 down under to Australia, the Men in Blue were coming to this match at the back of three consecutive defeats that needed them to win with a bonus point to remain in the CB series tournament.

Despite losing to India in the 2011 World Cup final, the Sri Lanka cricket team was at the epitome of greatness with a perfect blend of experience and youth, producing consistently against the best sides. Hence, it wasn't surprising that the Lankans put up a mammoth target of 321 after being asked to bat first at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart.

Tillakaratne Dilshan's unbeaten 160 run-knock and Kumar Sangakkara's 105 saw India's premier bowlers regularly taken to the stands. While the weather and pitch conditions suited the chase, Sri Lanka boasted of an in-form Lasith Malinga in their bowling line-up, who would eventually end up with the most wickets (18) in the series.

When a 23-year-old Virat Kohli came out to bat in the 10th over, Tendulkar was dismissed by Malinga, with India needing 235 more runs to win. However, if they were to stay alive in the competition, MS Dhoni's men needed to chase it down in the next 30 overs.

Though Kohli had already hit seven ODI tons before that, his last five scores read 21, 66, 12, 15 and 18. Hence, while Kohli's talent was unquestionable, only some people believed India could win that clash against Sri Lanka with Tendulkar and Sehwag already back in the pavilion. But Kohli had other plans as he targetted the Lankan bowler who was the most fearsome. His first ball of the match was a glorious flick through midwicket for a boundary as Malinga's mistimed yorker delivery met with Kohli's immaculate timing off the willow.

Though Kohli primarily dealt with singles and doubles in the initial phase of his innings, he showed a conviction very few batsmen had shown in the entire series. Kohli's cover drive off Thisara Perera's delivery in the 16th over had everything that shot requires to be executed to perfection. The commentator had famously remarked, "That's the stroke. That's as good as anything."

Kohli and Gambhir would forge a 115-run stand before the reliable southpaw was dismissed by run-out in the 28th over. With India still needing 120 runs in 12.3 overs, Kohli knew that the incoming Suresh Raina had to keep the scoreboard ticking from the word go. And the duo did exactly that, adding 71 runs in the next six overs until the historic over of Malinga came.

It was the 35th over, with India requiring 41 runs in five overs to attain the bonus point along with the win. With both the batters looking to discard every ball to the stands, Malinga's yorkers were the ideal answer. It was a high-risk-high-reward scenario, and Kohli seized it with both hands.

Kohli hit four boundaries and a six to add 32 runs to his kitty from the 35th over itself before finishing the match two overs later against the same bowler with two consecutive boundaries.

"You can't do much when they bat like that... Virat played out of his skin on a true pitch. It was the first off day for our bowlers in the tournament, so fair enough," Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene had said after the match.

India's match against Sri Lanka in Hobart was Sachin Tendulkar's last match in Australia, a nation that had adored the Indian batting legend for two decades. However, little did the Australian cricket lovers know that they had already gotten another batsman to fall in love with on the same day when Tendulkar played his last on Australian soil.

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