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17 December, 2020

Kohli Pulls It Off, Almost as India Squander Advantage On Day One

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Virat Kohli. Pic courtesy: BCCI.TV and Getty Images

Virat Kohli, the representation of New India, stood up to his bold statements made the previous day to the press. Well, almost.

Playing with a mix of single minded focus, confusion, frustration, Kohli was on a gallant 74 when his deputy Ajinkya Rahane, batting at the other end ditched him. 

Rahane called for a single after playing a Nathan Lyon delivery to mid off, took off, then equally quickly rejected the call. Kohli, who had his back to the fielder and not ball watching was committed to run based on his deputy's call. It turned out to be his undoing.

You may surmise that it was unintentional of Rahane. However, as the team's vice captain and one who'll take on the mantle of captaincy, second Test match on, you expected Rahane to be smarter.

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"The two wickets [Virat's and Ajinkay's} were crucial," Cheteshwar Pujara, another of India's Test mainstays said at the end of the first day's play.

Kohli, who had categorically told the media that it'll be the senior guys in the team who'll be taking on the pressure, the load and the responsibility to carry forward the team's fortune in the pink ball Test, had fulfilled that promise before he was sadly run out.

Adding salt to injury, Rahane instead of reserving his brood and guilt feeling for the dressing room, went into a zombie like situation and was soon dismissed. He was rooted to his crease to a Mitchell Starc inswinger.

He then quickly set off for the exit until Hanuma Vihari, batting at the other end ran up to him and urged him to make use of one of the three DRS available to the team.
Although Pujara said "I feel we still are evenly placed in the Test", experts following the Test are clearly of the view that the advantage has shifted the Aussie way.

India had a first innings score of 350 in mind. All three, Pujara, Kohli and Rahane showed they were capable of steering India toward that goal. This, despite not having played Test cricket for more than nine months owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

And yet, all three put their head down, grinded their bats during difficult early sessions only to squander all that effort by the end of the day.

Pujara is optimistic. "Ash [Ravichandran Ashwin] and Wridhi [Wridhiman Saha] can bat and take the score to 275-300," Pujara told journalists. "And if the lower order too bats well tomorrow, we may reach 350 runs."

Such optimism is good to keep the morale of the team and the younger players buoyant. However, you need to factor in reality such as, the opposition is playing with an home advantage, are good at breaking momentums and partnerships, can figure out chinks in a batsman's skill and remain agile on the field throughout the day.

The confusion and frustration Kohli faced while batting was the rotation of strike and squeezing out singles. His batting position is such that Pujara precedes him. 

On the first day, there were several instances Kohli felt there was a single to be had but Pujara wouldn't budge.

Pujara's reluctance to steal a single has turned into a stubborn rejection after his two run out episodes that were widely publicized and written about when India played South Africa.

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Kohli, according to the Aussies, is of their mindset. When batting on a difficult pitch, he loves to dominate the opposition by running those singles. This allows him to frustrate the bowler and the opposition. Moreover rotation of strike also helps batsmen build their composure by watching the proceeding closely from the other end.

If you are an hard core India supporter, you can only hope that Pujara's optimistic words come true on Day Two. This'll then give India a brighter chance of unleashing Jasprit Bumrah, whom the Australian cricket lovers want to watch.