Virat Kohli buys Rohit Sharma as India plan to bat with more intensity

The No. 3 batsman attempted boundaries in half of the 16 balls he faced against Afghanistan.

Deivarayan Muthu

Virat Kohli tried to hit half the balls he faced on Sunday BCCI

The ball pings in the middle of the bat. Poof. It's a slow-sweep from outside. Both outfielders are leg-side in the powerplay – deep midwicket and wide long-on – but neither is likely to cut it.

Slack – and a variety of it – is one of the most effective shots for big-hitters in T20 cricket. But Virat Kohli, even at his devastating best, is not much of a sloger and relies heavily on timing the ball. Playing his first T20 in over a year, he was ready to hit a spinner in the powerplay.

Not only that Any Spinner. Mujeeb ur Rahman can turn the ball both ways and can even swing the new ball. He is in demand in T20 and T10 leagues around the world.

Kohli has enjoyed his share against spin in T20 cricket and has been averse to taking risks against this type of bowling in the past. But on Sunday, he tore up the old template and twisted it with more purpose. He scored 29 runs off 16 balls with 5 fours. According to ESPNcricinfo's records, he attempted to hit half of those 16 balls for boundaries. He only took out Mujeeb for 18 off seven balls at a strike rate of 257.14.

Chasing 173 against the Afghanistan attack, Kohli could have eased his way without skipper Rashid Khan. But he didn't. Instead, he batted with purpose and was completely in tune with the way modern T20 cricket is played. Of course, the flat Indore pitch and fast outfield helped Kohli, but the change in batting approach was evident. A plan is in the works for the T20 World Cup in the US and West Indies in less than six months.

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Kohli slugs Naveen-ul-Haq at long-on. He also left Greece for Fazalhaq Farooqui. He threw his arms, hips and shoulders at the ball despite the odd play and miss. He admonished himself when he failed. He admonished himself when he failed to fully reproduce That Harris Rauff's six from the 2022 T20 World Cup in Melbourne. For the record, this ball that caused Kohli so much grief also flew over the ropes for a six.

Shivam Dubey scored his second fifty BCCI

Again, there was precious little reason to go so hard. It's a choice made by a high-quality batter, ready to adapt to the world around him. When Kohli tried to pump another boundary below Naveen, he cut it to mid-off. Then sat in the dug-out and watched the likes of Yashaswi Jaiswal and Shivam Dubey perform with high intent. India made a mockery of the chase when Jaiswal was dismissed for two runs off one ball and Dube was dismissed under that.

India captain Rohit Sharma has also moved away from a defence-first T20 batting approach. After being run-out in the first T20I in Mohali, he may have taken his time to settle in the second one, but he chose to go hard from the game. He backs off and Hills swings at the first ball, but Farooqi bowls it full enough to trim the off bail.

Having talented hitters like Axar Patel and Washington Sundar at No.7 and No.8 gives India's top-order batsmen more freedom to attack. In the 2022 T20 World Cup semi-finals, the Indian team had R Ashwin and Axar at No. 7 and No. 8 respectively. Ashwin has improved as a T20 batsman, but he's more fours than sixes. When Hardik Pandya returns, he will give even better balance.

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India will play just one more T20I in Bengaluru on Wednesday ahead of June's World Cup, but Rohit has already seen enough. He was delighted with how his batters refused to take a step back.

„We are very clear about what we want to do and what we want to achieve,” he told the host broadcaster in the post-match presentation. „[There is a] A very clear message to everyone in the team and you can be proud of it when you see performances like that. It's one thing to talk about it, it's another thing to go out and actually do it.

„So I'm happy we're doing what we've been talking about in our dressing room and that's a good positive for us, moving forward. In the last two games we've played, we've ticked almost every box and tried a few things. Powerplay, back end and middle overs as well.”

T20 moves at such a fast pace that it can leave anyone behind. India, and especially Kohli and Rohit, know this better than most. Their last two World Cup campaigns have been less than successful as they have been doing the same thing over and over again. Now there is a desire to do something different.

Deivarayan Muthu is Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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