Virat Kohli is a special player, for special occasions. Whenever the pressure is on, he keeps it ice cool and excels. An unbeaten 72 off just 44 balls from Kohli led India into the final of the ICC World Twenty20.
It was a superb innings in many different ways and it was just another reminder that he is a talent to be treasured, especially in the shortest formats of the game.
Chasing 173 for victory, Kohli strolled out to the crease with India at 39-1 after 3.5 overs. Rohit Sharma's cameo had given them a start, but the game was still up for grabs. Kohli's maturity helped guide his team over the line.
Most crucial to this innings was his ability to rotate the strike, ensuring he played one of the finest knocks of the tournament. With just three dot balls faced in his entire innings, Kohli never stopped the scoreboard ticking over.
After his knock, he spoke at the official press conference:
In a T20 game, a single is as important as a six. I was on 20 not out off 17 balls without hitting a boundary. If you can do that and the opposition know if I can get two boundaries in between, my strike rate goes up to 150, round about that. It is very important to keep rotating the strike—in a rush of blood, you always keep looking for boundaries but as long as you keep rotating the strike and not losing wickets at the same time, keep the scoring rate ticking, the opposition captain has to think about a lot of things.
For a team like the West Indies, who have remarkable firepower but had seen Chris Gayle at the top of the order take such time to get started, it was a valuable lesson.
Rotating the strike was something not only Kohli did well, but India as a whole. South Africa had 40 dot balls in their innings, India had just 29. It was one of the biggest differences between the two teams and Kohli's knock encompassed the sensible approach to T20 cricket.
His efforts in international T20s since the last edition of the ICC World T20 have been simply outstanding. He averages 52.28 since December 2012 and has posted just one score of below 20 since then. Despite India not playing a vast amount of T20 internationals, Kohli does play regularly in the IPL, something which has clearly helped him refine his craft. And of course, especially in the subcontinent, he remains an astonishing player in the 50-over format.
What makes him outstanding is that his approach is fairly orthodox in what many still view as a format of the game which requires unorthodoxy. With the margins for error so small, Kohli keeps it simple. His approach isn't overtly flash and aggressive like some other leading T20 players—think Aaron Finch, Gayle and David Warner. His approach also isn't as inventive as somebody like AB de Villiers. Kohli remains enchanting, because he can make even the simplest of things look extraordinary.
During the semi-final against South Africa, where Kohli hit the winning runs, he shared a special moment with his captain. MS Dhoni could have got his side over line, but he decided to give the strike to Kohli instead. India's skipper revealed at the post-match press conference, broadcast on television:
I had told him you finish it off, but he said in this game, I can’t give you anything else. You have batted really well, so this is my gift to you. I told him that’s very kind of you, and I accepted it.
His passion and dedication to his craft and his love for his country is a rare find in modern cricketers. With so much to play for at global tournaments, Kohli still passionately bleeds Indian blue and seems to be pumped up no matter what the occasion. Beyond the cheeky batsman and the attitude is a player mature beyond his years, though. A player who understands the game and thinks about how to get better all the time. His confidence is often confused for arrogance and even if that were true, with his wealth of talent, he's allowed a little bit of an arrogant streak.
Kohli is just 25 years old, he averages over 40 in every format of the game and he's already scored 25 international centuries. He has the chance to be part of a team who holds the World Cup, Champions Trophy and the World T20 Trophy all at the same time.
The best part? He's only getting started.