Kohli and Rahul turn on the heat


Virat Kohli and KL Rahul (Image: Debasis Sen)


The heat was stifling and the humidity was killing in Chennai on Sunday. For those not used to these extreme conditions, even a casual walk in the streets can be dehydrating. In such extreme conditions, the Indian troika of spinners led by Sir Ravindra Jadeja throttled the Aussies for 199 runs in the ICC World Cup opener.

That was just the prelude. What followed was a batting collapse like a house of cards from the India top order, where Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer were clueless. Stress, tension, nail biting and more. Social media had stepped into overdrive, slamming the captain plus those scoring ducks.

Faith had to be restored. Yes, by the men who have served Indian cricket durably over the last few years. Former captain Virat Kohli and the man who knows he has to deliver for India, KL Rahul, staged a classic revival act.

From a state of being on the ventilator to breathing more freely, Kohli and Rahul showed commitment, maturity and application against the Australian bowlers. With Josh Hazlewood having done early damages, huge ones that, the importance was to play cool.

In the heat of Chennai, Kohli, the ageless wonder and the fittest batter in the side and Rahul plotted the escape to victory. Had even one of these wickets fallen, it would have been a disaster. Fans would have been so unkind they would have even questioned their credentials and stirred the club versus country debate.

Thank God, Kohli and Rahul responded to the prayers of more than a billion, for cricket is a mass sport. Watching a World Cup match is mass hysteria for Indians, be it inside the stadium or in front of TV sets. People had palpitations, people were tense. This is what the stress is all about even when the men in the middle were playing mature cricket. Kohli has that monk-like serenity, while Rahul showed his form is back and the willingness to craft a brilliant knock. Forget the scores, the stats, fours and sixes, these two men restored respect and were like pilots and co-pilots in command.

Indian fans must be thankful Kohli and Rahul pulled off an improbable victory, with their scores of 85 and 97 (not out) shining like a beacon. After all, the weight of runs against the rampaging Aussies was arrested.

Chennai was sweating, at first. They then realized what heat can be turned on during an ODI in the middle of the 22 yards. After all, despite the ongoing debate about the ODI losing popularity, matches like these bring out so many emotions. Team India, you got to cheer them.
At the start of play in the afternoon, at 2 pm, it was terrible. The dry bulb showed around 99 degrees F and the real feel was like 110 degrees F. This is the worst part about Chennai, for the sea breeze sets in only around 430pm.

It was a sight to see David Warner and a few more Aussies take a drinks break with protection for the head. The Chennai heat can melt you, more so if you are not used to it.

Yet, on a track which was dry and aided spin, the triumvirate of Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav and R. Ashwin throttled the Aussies. To borrow a pet phrase from the Late Richie Benaud, this was bamboozling the Aussies. It was not just the conditions which spelt doom for the Aussies.

Cricket in summer in Chennai has been played for many years, since the time former BCCI President IS Bindra conceived the Independence Cup in 1997. With the advent of the IPL, Chennai and the April/May heat have seen players come well-prepared.

Sir Jadeja, as the left-arm spinner is known, is devastating when there is help from the track. Give him slight aid and he will just decimate the opposition. For sheer delight from an Indian fans’ perspective, the way Jadeja rocked the stumps of Steve Smith sent the crowd into raptures. This was a peach of a delivery where the replays showed how badly the former Aussie captain of Sandpaper Gate (in)fame was beaten.

Everyone knew three spinners in the Indian attack meant the rivals would find it tough. If Kuldeep Yadav, left arm of wrist variety was prying, Jadeja was the pick. In terms of being consistent to the point of nagging and at the same time throttling batters, Jadeja is a terror.

This was a familiar zone, familiar terrain, for Jadeja. He has played so much cricket for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL in a city which loves good cricket. Chennai is the same city which has showered enormous love on MS Dhoni, whose star value matches cine star Rajnikanth.
Tonight, if two heroes emerged fresh for Chennai cricket lovers, it had to be Virat Kohli and KL Rahul. Real gems, these two guys, who have set India’s World Cup campaign in forward motion.

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S.Kannan The heat was stifling and the humidity was killing in Chennai on Sunday. For those not used to these extreme conditions, even a casual walk in the streets can…
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