World Cup semi-final: Kohli masterclass as Indian batters run riot at Wankhede
Sachin Tendulkar happy at the evolution of the ‘Virat’ player who broke his record of ODI centuries
The rainy Old Trafford semi-final of 2019 seemed a distant memory at the sunny Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday. The men in blue, marshalled by two of their biggest warriors — Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma — have all but batted New Zealand out of the first World Cup semi-final in front of a packed stadium.
There will be 100 good reasons why Kohli’s historic 50th century in ODIs, overtaking Sachin Tendulkar on the latter’s home turf, will overshadow the contributions from everyone in the top five. Shreyas Iyer, the Mumbaikar, made the occasion a memorable one for him in front of his family and friends with an attacking century (105 off 70 balls), while new ODI no.1 batter Shubman Gill fought back cramps to remain unbeaten on 80 while KL Rahul chipped away with a cameo of 39 off 20 balls.
Soon after Kohli slumped to the ground on reaching three figures, he bowed in the direction of where Tendulkar was sitting, and blew his customary flying kiss to wife Anushka Sharma.
The master blaster was quick to respond on his X handle: ‘’The first time I met you in the Indian dressing room, you were pranked by other teammates into touching my feet. I couldn’t stop laughing that day. But soon, you touched my heart with your passion and skill. I am so happy that young boy has grown into a ‘Virat’ player.
"I couldn’t be happier that an Indian broke my record. And to do it on the biggest stage — in the World Cup semi-final — and at my home ground is the icing on the cake,’’ he added.
A total of 397 for four looks insurmountable for an otherwise disciplined Kiwi attack, which was made to look ragged by the Indian batters. While Kohli would walk away with the limelight for a dream World Cup (he has also overtaken Tendulkar’s other landmark of most runs in a single World Cup of 673), there is no gainsaying that captain Rohit was responsible for providing the launchpad as he decided to take the monkey off his shoulders against Trent Boult.
The die was cast no sooner than Rohit won the toss and opted for the no brainer — bat on a flat wicket with no hint of swing for Boult, Tim Southee & Co. If the Kiwis had a chance in the game, it would have been to put up a 300-plus score and then try to put the hosts under the pump with a few early wickets. It did not happen as the Indian top order continued untroubled by any of the New Zealand bowlers.
This has been the blueprint of the Indian batting approach throughout the tournament. First up, Rohit helps them get quickly off the blocks in the powerplay, and as the field is spread, looks to rotate the strike and look for the poor balls to put away.