Modern day cricket has become quicker but the biggest change has been in the approach. Teams and players are playing fearless cricket now compared to the start of the century. One of those feared things was chasing down a target, and how to nail a target every time. To crack down that question and to quash that fear, one player has taken upon himself to rewrite chasing in limited overs cricket. He is none other than the Indian captain Virat Kohli. We try to decode what makes Kohli a Chase Specialist:
1. Kohli does not play with a fixed target in mind
It has been suggested that to chase down a target, one should break the target down into smaller targets, for example, while chasing in excess of 300 it is said to get close to 60-65 in the first 10 overs and then try to milk four to five runs an over for the next 20-25 overs before letting loose in the final stage of the innings. Kohli, however, does not do that. He plays the situation and goes with an open mind. He is as comfortable getting off to a slow start as he is when he gets a quick start in spite of the target being 300-plus in both scenarios. Kohli believes he needs to play situations and shape his approach accordingly. This makes him realise when he can get a move on and when does he need to be circumspect.
2. Strike rotation
In the modern age, the emphasis on strike rotation is massive. That put bowlers off their rhythms and keep the scoreboard moving even if there are not a whole lot of boundaries. Virat Kohli and Joe Root are perhaps the two masters of this art. Both look to sneak in singles and doubles all the time. Virat Kohli does not like to rely only on boundaries, he is always on the look out for runs and his incredible fitness regime allows him to run throughout his innings. Often he converts ones into twos and that takes the pressure of him and the team.
3. Love of the challenge
Virat Kohli has this incredible thirst of taking on challenges right from when he was a young kid stepping into the academy for the first time. He does not back down from a challenge put in front of him. His approach is clear, back his abilities, focus and take it one ball at a time. These attributes are necessary when you need to chase down a target. Scoreboard pressure is on you and the team batting first has a better grasp of conditions. The Indian skipper thrives under this pressure though. He takes centre stage and tackles the bowling with ease. Whether it is a small target or a huge target, he does not differentiate between the two and considers it as a challenge.
4. Statistical brilliance
In a 102 innings in which India have chased, Virat Kohli has scored 5169 runs at an average of 66.27 with a strike rate of 93.42 with 26 fifties and 18 hundreds, most by any batsman while chasing. His first innings numbers are nowhere near these numbers: in 79 innings batting first, he has 3088 runs at an average of 42.30 with a strike rate of 87.38 with 17 fifties and 10 hundreds.
His 5169 runs make him the seventh highest run scorer in chases. His 18 hundreds while chasing have come in just 102 innings, overtaking Sachin Tendulkar’s 17 in 232 innings. These are some mind-boggling numbers. His numbers batting second in T20I cricket are even more staggering. In 20 innings, Virat has scored 934 runs at an average of 84.91 at a strike rate of 133.24 with ten fifties.
A big hallmark of a great run chaser is his ability to be not out at he end of a run chase. Virat Kohli has this wonderful ability of remaining unbeaten right till the end. In those 102 innings while chasing the 28-year-old has remained not out 24 times. In some of his most memorable innings, Virat has remained unbeaten. This is because Virat believes in finishing the game off, an attribute he has learned by playing with MS Dhoni. Dhoni is widely regarded as the best finisher of the game and one of the prime reasons for that is because he is unbeaten at the end. Virat is the same, he has this voice inside him and a thirst which never quenches till he does not personally see the run chase achieved himself.
While modern day cricket has become more pacy and more fearless, a lot of the credit for that has to be given to Virat Kohli. He has redefined what run chasing means and his tremendous mental strength to keep chasing with the same intensity is admirable.