Virat Kohli‘s performances in this series -120 and 114 not out in the second and third ODIs – can only be described as masterful. Both knocks were also the bedrocks of India’s innings. And on both occasions, he found able support in tricky situations from Shreyas Iyer, who added partnerships of 125 and 120 with his captain.
After India sealed the ODI series 2-0, one of the first things Kohli said was how impressed he was by Iyer’s batting and attitude, adding that the Mumbai batsman reminded him of his own early days in the India side.
“He understood the value of performing in these situations,” Kohli said after India’s six-wicket win (DLS method) in Port-of-Spain on Wednesday. “It will only boost his confidence further. I was exactly the same when I came in – any opportunity I got I wanted to win games for my team and play according to the situation and you have to take risks. He was brave under pressure. You need to reveal your game to realise who you are, what your game is and what kind of a player you are.
With India still trying to figure out their middle-order puzzle, Kohli said Iyer could be a “strong contender and a regular feature in the middle order” if he continued to take responsibility like he did during this series.
“Both times he was batting with me, I’ve been around for a while, and he wasn’t intimidated at all, he was very confident, very sure of his game. I think that is great to see, hopefully he builds on to this and keeps performing like this for the team.
“Today we were under a bit of pressure, I think Shreyas, the way he played took all the pressure off me and I could just play with my usual tempo and control the game from one end.”
Kohli said he took pride in his performances that earned him the Player of the Match and Player of the Series awards, bringing his experience into play in pressure situations. In the second ODI, he had walked in to bat after Shikhar Dhawan had fallen in the first over and the side needed to rebuild. On Wednesday, with India facing a target of 255 in 35 overs, he came out to bat in the third over and saw his side through, with a 99-ball 114.
“I have been around for a while. Experience counts in pressure situations, understanding where the game is heading and what I need to do in terms of the tempo of the game,” he said. “So, you obviously want to take a lot of pride in stepping up for the team as much as you can and I definitely take a lot of pride in that.
“Two good games with the bat for me, but more importantly we got the result because of my contribution as well, so that always feels much, much better and eventually that’s all that matters – when you cross the line and finish the game.”
India looked to be in some trouble at the start of the third ODI after West Indies openers Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis had raced away to 114 off the first ten overs. Kohli admitted the side was nervous at that point because the DLS target would have been difficult on that track had West Indies continued batting in that fashion.
“It was actually good that we got game time and we got those wickets otherwise we’d be chasing close to 280 in whatever overs we had bowled. So, that would have been a humongous task on a pitch that was slowing down,” he said.
“When Chris and Lewis play like that you know why they are rated as two of the most dangerous players in the world especially in white-ball cricket. We tried literally everything and bowled every ball possible, but they were just absolutely brutal – actually that was tremendous batting from both of them.”
Echoing Iyer’s comments of different players in the team stepping up to take responsibility, Kohli said that attitude had become a template for the team over the last few years.
“What he said [about every team member taking responsibility] was exactly spot on that’s what we want to do. As I said last game and this game Shikhar and Rohit have been brilliant performers for us, one of them usually gets a big score, but if they don’t then it’s my responsibility in the top three to get a big score.
“That’s how we have played and that’s why we have been successful – 75% win percentage in the last three-four years, so we have a good template we follow as a team.”