23 October 2022. The MCG was roaring with 90,293 fans supporting arch rivals India and Pakistan as they kicked off their 2022 ICC T20 World Cup campaign.
There was plenty of talk on whether India had the edge over Pakistan anymore in World Cups, after losing comprehensively in Dubai by 10 wickets 12 months prior during the 2021 edition of the ICC T20 World Cup.
Despite starting well with the ball, some loose death overs bowling from India led to Pakistan scoring 8/159 from their 20 overs. With the extra bounce on offer and three Pakistani seamers who love to hit a hard length, pressure was still on India.
India’s top order faltered badly as they fell to 4/31 in the seventh over. The Pakistani players and fans were jubilant as victory was almost certain for the Pakistanis. There was one man in Pakistan’s way – Virat Kohli. But there was also one problem for India. Kohli had struggled to reach his usual heights for quite a few years, especially in Test cricket. Would he be able to bat himself back into form and get India over the line?
Kohli bided his time, as he started to build a partnership with all rounder Hardik Pandya. The pair took on Mohammad Nawaz in the 12th over, hitting three sixes as India went from needing 106 runs off 54 balls to 86 runs off 48. However, the innings once again went into a lull as India struggled to keep the required run rate in check. The result? India needing 48 runs off 18 balls and Kohli was struggling, 46 off 42 deliveries.
And then it was vintage Kohli. With three boundaries hit off Shaheen Afridi’s over, India got 17 runs off the 18th over. Pakistan captain Babar Azam gave the ball to Haris Rauf in hope of finishing the game off. Rauf started his over brilliantly, conceding just three runs off his first four balls as India needed 28 off 8. Bowling another back of a length delivery, Kohli shuffled to the leg side and flayed Rauf off the back foot over his head for six.
The next ball was a top edge for six over fine leg. India needed 16 off 6 with orthodox spinner Nawaz to bowl the final over. Kohli hit a waist high full toss for six as it was called a no ball. In a final over filled with no balls, wickets and wides, it was ultimately Ravichandran Ashwin who hit the winning runs as India won a thriller in the final ball of the contest by four wickets.
Pakistan were devastated. They had the game in the bag. But just like it was in Dhaka 2012, Colombo 2012, Dhaka 2014, Adelaide 2015 and Kolkata 2016, Virat Kohli had haunted Pakistan with the bat once again. Kohli’s knock of 82 not out off 53 balls just made it even more special with the odds hugely stacked against India and the fact that this was an out of form Kohli who had made Pakistan suffer.
Virat Kohli’s love affair with Australian grounds is nothing new. His first Test half century outside of India came on a Perth wicket where every other Indian player struggled. His first Test hundred was in Adelaide. His first Test hundred as skipper came at the Adelaide Oval. And once again, an Australian ground came to Kohli’s rescue to get him back into form and help India conjure up a highly unlikely victory against their arch rivals.
Since Kohli played his greatest T20I knock, he’s turned a new corner in his career. Not only is he scoring hundreds, he’s looking confident in the way he scores his runs. The Indian legend has started his 2023 ICC World Cup campaign with the bat perfectly, scoring match winning knocks against Australia and Bangladesh so far.
Whether India go on to win the tournament altogether is a different proposition and something that is too early to call. But they are in with a huge chance of winning the tournament with Kohli batting the best he has been since 2016.
And a lot goes back to October 23 2022, when Virat Kohli’s outstanding knock revived his declining career.