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Virat Kohli & KL Rahul script India’s success story in opening World Cup 2023 clash

Cricket World Cup 2023: Virat Kohli, KL Rahul crush Australia’s dreams in their opening game.

Asia Cup 2023, IND vs PAK, Super 4_ KL Rahul, Virat Kohli added 233-run for third wicket against Pakistan _ Walking wicket (Images_ ©BCCI_Twitter)
Rahul, Kohli added 165-run for 4th wicket against Aussies (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)

It is rare that a batter hits a six to make his team win a World Cup game, but ends up sitting on the haunches in disbelief and with a tinge of disappointment.

This rare sight was on display recently when KL Rahul carried India over the line against Australia with his 97* run knock. The disappointment was perhaps of not completing a well-deserved century, as with the six India crossed the required score. At one point with India cramping at just 2/3 on the board, there was a sense of fear and disbelief in the country and in the team’s dressing room.

However, this time the India side performed much differently – like how they crumbled after 5/3 in the 2019 ODI World Cup semifinal or 6/2 during the 2017 Champions Trophy final. The Men in Blue survived the tough period and chose their shots effectively according to the demands of the situation.

A record 165-run partnership that gave belief among Indian fans

KL Rahul had stepped off the field after keeping for 50 overs in the Australian innings, and he was due to come in at number 5. However, he could only manage a shower as his time to arrive in the middle with the willow in hand came really soon.

“There was a bit of rush and I was just trying to get my breath back,” Rahul said while picking up the Player of the Match award. He further said about the innings, “Virat said there’s big help in the wicket, and (we) just have to play proper shots and play like it’s Test cricket for some time and see where it goes.”

Both Rahul and Kohli complemented each other during their record 165-run partnership for the fourth wicket. This is now India’s highest fourth-wicket stand while chasing against any team in ODIs, and also their best fourth-wicket partnership against Australia in ODI World Cups.

They both started off in a Test match fashion and mostly attempted to drop the ball near the stumps for singles to keep the scoreboard ticking. That eventually helped them in releasing the pressure in an average 200-run chase.

With Adam Zampa looking a bit rusty and not getting his line and length right, both Kohli and Rahul played aggressively against him. If there was variable bounce in the odd delivery, both smiled for a moment and refocused on the next ball without much fuss.

CWC 2023, India vs Australia_ Virat Kohli scores fifty (85) against Australia in run-chase _ Walking Wicket (Photo_ ©BCCI_Twitter)
Kohli scored fifty (85) against Australia in run-chase (Photo: ©BCCI/Twitter)
Virat Kohli’s routine performance in run chase- calm but sharp in nature

Traditionally, when the lights are switched on, the ball comes on to the bat a bit easily. But the Chepauk surface was different; there was a bit of variable bounce and a tinge of movement.

The story of the match could have been entirely different had Mitchell Marsh, after making good ground and going all-in for the dive, could have held on to the mistimed shot by Kohli, who was then playing at just 12. Marsh gave Virat Kohli a life, and from that moment the India batter barely made any mistakes.

The lesson one can take from Kohli is that never to go for unconventional shots early on in the innings. Because his fitness level is at a different level, it’s not compulsory for him to always look for boundaries to release pressure. During his 85-run knock, there were 61 runs which came by running between the wickets and that too after fielding for 50 overs in the hot Chennai conditions.

Kohli’s love affair with Australia continues as he now has 2313 runs in 46 ODI innings against them at an average of 53.8 with 13 fifties and eight centuries. The 85-run knock in this year’s World Cup opening game for India was Kohli’s highest personal score during a chase in the tournament history.

When it comes to successful ODI chases, Kohli has propelled himself to another standard, with 5517 runs at an average of 89. Second in the list is Sachin Tendulkar with 5490 runs at an average of 55.5.

However, after getting out at 85, everyone could see him being frustrated at not being able to complete his ton and stay on the pitch till the winning runs were hit.

KL Rahul has done well in chase for India in ODI_ Walking wicket (Images_ ©BCCI_Twitter)
KL Rahul scored 97 against Australia (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)
Steady KL Rahul ends the middle order debate with courage and determination

Rahul’s responsibility was to respond to Kohli’s quick singles and he hardly missed out in doing so. One of the challenges for him was to show his fitness and his performance in the match has silenced all critics.

KL Rahul looked solid in the crease for the entire duration. At the start, he was concentrating mostly on getting singles but he showed he was in sync in the over against Zampa where he punched the bowler for three boundaries. And from then on, there was no stopping him.

Since making his return in the side from injury, Rahul has smashed 402 runs in seven ODI innings at an average of 100.50 and strike rate of 92.41 with three fifties and one century. There were a lot of talks about the perfect number 4 batter for India during the last World Cup, but the Men in Blue undoubtedly have a solid number 5 in this edition of the tournament.

If Kohli’s numbers take one by surprise, Rahul’s average of 295 in five innings with four fifties since 2022 in successful chases in ODIs will blow their minds. And whenever it is required to put the feet on the accelerator to get the net run rate cushion, Rahul doesn’t hesitate for a second.

India have begun their World Cup 2023 campaign with a win against the mighty Australia and they have well-deserved two points on the board. They are slated to meet Afghanistan on October 11.


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