India star Virat Kohli returns to the scene of one of his most memorable Test innings hoping to rediscover batting form for Thursday’s World Cup semi-final against Australia in Sydney.
It was at the Sydney Cricket Ground in January that Kohli, captaining India after the shock retirement of skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni from the longer format, hit 147 and 46 to lead his team to a creditable draw.
It was his fourth century in the four-Test series and prevented Australia from making it 3-0 after the hosts had piled up a mammoth 572 for seven in their first innings.
Kohli`s form dipped alarmingly in the subsequent tri-series that also featured England, with scores of nine, four, three and eight as India failed to make the final and ended the bilateral tour without a win.
But the elegant right-hander justified Dhoni’s assessment of his vice-captain being a big-match player by striking a match-winning 107 in their World Cup opener against arch-rivals Pakistan in Adelaide on February 15.
Kohli followed that with 46 against mighty South Africa at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the next match, helping the defending champions to the second of seven straight wins in the tournament so far.
But as India cruised along, Kohli found runs hard to come by, making identical scores of 33 against the United Arab Emirates and the West Indies, an unbeaten 44 versus Ireland, 38 against Zimbabwe and three in the quarter-final against Bangladesh.
The 26-year-old’s lack of batting touch came to the fore against Bangladesh when he chased an away-swinger by the fired-up Rubel Hossain and was caught behind by Mushfiqur Rahim.
As India prepare for the semi-final against the tournament co-hosts, Kohli will be expected to live up to his reputation as one of the most dominant batsmen of his generation.
Skipper Dhoni was confident a match-winning innings from his star batsman was around the corner.
“I don’t think he has batted badly,” Dhoni said, pleading with fans to tone down their expectations every time Kohli goes out to bat.
“No one can score a century every time. But he is such a good player that people expect him to do it in every innings. He is a dominant batsman who likes playing shots. A big one is just around the corner because big players always score in big games.”
Kohli, who made his one-day debut in 2008, has already hit an astonishing 22 centuries in the shorter format, one of only eight batsmen in the world to achieve the feat.
He was the fastest to 22 hundreds — in 143 innings — leaving former team-mate and batting record-holder Sachin Tendulkar trailing in second place.
Tendulkar, the highest run-getter in both Test and one-day batsman, had scored the 22nd of his record 49 centuries in the shorter format in his 206th innings.
With Ajinkya Rahane also without a big score since making 79 against South Africa and Suresh Raina struggling to overcome his weakness with the short ball, India will hope Kohli gets back his form on Thursday.