The drubbing was on the cards. 3-0 in the Test series, 5-0 in the ODIs, followed by a comprehensive win in the one-off T20I. It was a demolition job from start to finish. India might as well have started the tour as favourites, but to assert supremacy in the manner that they did in Sri Lanka, speaks volumes about Virat Kohli’s team. ‘9-0’ it ended, an astonishing achievement to say the least on an away tour. The difference in class was so evident between both the teams throughout, that interim Sri Lankan coach Nic Pothas almost went to the extent of comparing India to the most successful rugby team in the world: the All Blacks.
There was never a touch of complacency seeping anywhere. Nor did it ever look like India were making most of their bragging rights or belittling Sri Lanka’s quality any time on the tour. Instead, they went about the tour in a businesslike manner – Sticking to the basics, completing the job and moving onto the next job.
“You look at their team and they are very All Black-like,” Pothas said after India won the lone T20I by 7 wickets. “There’s a lot of respect for the facilities and there’s a lot of respect for the opposition. They are very ruthless in the way they go about their work. Their work ethic is immense. They are what a lot of teams aspire to be. The most important thing for us is learning from our mistakes, but most importantly: learning from them.”
Unsurprisingly, the chief architect of India’s prodigious 9-0 success on the neighbouring island was Kohli. Rising and shining by just being himself, Kohli enriched his own stature in front of the world, as the tour progressed. After a hundred to seal a 5-0 ODI whitewash, with a knock like the one he played on Wednesday night, 82 off 54, India’s captain reaffirmed why he is the heartbeat of the team.
— Star Sports (@StarSportsIndia) September 7, 2017
“You see how Virat runs between the wickets, and you see the respect he commands on the field as a leader – he’s a role model to people and he pulls people with him,” Pothas said. “When you look at the way they (India) go about their work and the culture that Virat has created within that team, it’s very, very impressive.”
In truth, there was nothing un-Kohli like in the way Kohli led India’s chase. He came in at 22 for 1. Absorbed the tension of the early overs, even got beaten by balls in the corridor of uncertainty. And then began toying with the field, finding gaps with ease; all while playing proper cricketing shots. With Manish Pandey at the other end, the duo kept the run-rate at attainable.
In future, if you do look back at this Virat Kohli innings, among the moments you shouldn’t miss out on would be: First, that jab he played on the onside off Angelo Mathews. It was hit so hard even a widish long-on could not do anything about it. Second, the sheer number of twos that he ran, which was also the demand of the situation. It meant that it was probably the first time Kohli was seen gasping for air and asking for drinks after almost every over. Maybe the humidity got to him.
But there’s a bigger picture amidst India’s resounding wins over the last few months in all formats. As time has progressed, Kohli’s persona has clearly become the team’s persona. His character and that of the side he leads, is now a mirror image. And there’s all sort of qualities in that character: There’s hunger, to win. Style in the way they go about it. Desire to be the best. But humble and gracious to opponents and also in defeat.
Almost every batsman in the team knows he’ll have to run hard between the wickets with Kohli at the other end. All fielders dread that look on Kohli’s face after a misfield or a dropped catch. The entire team’s fitness levels have gone up over the last few months. No compromises in putting efforts behind the scenes, in the gym, in the nets, is a reason.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson once said, “Blood, sweat and respect. The first two you give, last one you earn.” The Indian team now lives by this quote. And Kohli’s personality acts the enforcer.
And therefore, it won’t be wrong to say Kohli’s driven attitude is now being seen in his team’s attitude. They now play a brand of cricket that their captain likes and can be proud of. More importantly, the best player in the team has succeeded in casting his own image on the team. Can it get any better?