Even before the six Suryakumar Yadav hit on the last ball of the India innings landed in the second row of the Victor Trumper stands, Virat Kohli had reached alongside Yadav to congratulate him on his half-century.
He hugged, shook hands and urged Yadav to celebrate. Yadav removed his helmet with a satisfied smile, raised his bat to greet the crowd and hugged Kohli. They both then motioned for the crowd to turn up the decibels. They both later sauntered back to the dugout, giggling and exuding warmth like big buddies after building a winning 95-run streak in just 48 balls that took India to 179/2, 56 runs short overall for the Dutch.
Both seemed in a way in awe of each other. Yadav is a self-confessed Kohli fan. Following Kolhi’s 82 unbeaten epic against Pakistan, he tweeted a picture of Kohli with the caption “Manlaa re Bhauuuuu (roughly translates as hats off bro)” with a fire emoticon. When Kohli broke his drought of the century in Dubai, he tweeted again: “The king is back.” In interaction with the host broadcasters during the innings break at the SCG: “Virat did great, stuck to his routines and processes. I enjoyed batting with him.”
Kohli has also been enthusiastic about Yadav lately. After Yadav’s hurricane 26-Ball 68 against Hong Kong in the Asian Cup, Kohli bowed to him.
“I’ve watched so many innings when we play in the IPL or what’s been done to other teams, but this was my first experience of watching him very closely. I was totally blown away. If he can stay in that zone, he can literally change the complexion of the game against any team in the world,” he said.
On Thursday, their duet blew the Dutchman away. Before they united at the crease with 84/2 in 12 overs, India found themselves in a safe but unspectacular position. The Dutch bowlers had done an admirable job of keeping the run rate at seven. In the first 10, they had conceded just 67 goals. But all of that was to change once Yadav and Kohli started to close the gaps.
The well-positioned Kohli was first to be the attacker. When the first ball of the twelfth was over, he stepped up to Tim Pringle and smashed him to the ground. Yadav smiled admiringly. No limits came on the next six balls, but the eight runs they ran in that space showed telepathic understanding.
Two of the best running judges and fastest runners between gates on the team, they didn’t bother to call runs, just exchanging a look before heading out. Kohli, like so many other players, doesn’t need to yell or nudge for a quick double. When he returns for the second run, Yadav has often already started the second run. The understanding between them was telepathic, reminiscent of the heyday of MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh. Remarkably, Kohli and Yadav only used five point balls, a testament to their ball-maneuvering skills.
Yadav then took on the mantle of aggressor, successively cracking the limits of Paul van Meekeren before handing Bas de Leede the same treatment, in between whipping Logan van Beek through the midwicket.
They hit just three sixes – two of them in the last over – and still sustained a pace of almost 12 runs per over.
This is the genius of Yadav, who still managed to complete his half-century in 25 balls, and Kohli. They not only rely on sixes to boost scores, but also on fours, twos, ones and whatever else they can hoard. One is undoubtedly India’s best player of the era; another is arguably the best T20 player in his current form.
Together they make the Indian middle class the most powerful in the world. Most teams are packed with top-notch heavyweights but with a flat mid-range.
Either they have sturdy clubs in the middle or running batteries. However, none have such a classic pairing as Kohli and Yadav, who can take your breath away with their batting, making them the most watchable duo in T20 cricket.
The percussion is pure, there are few heaves and slogs, hacks and cracks. The punches are mostly drawn from the punch manual, but within the orthodox, they have expanded the scope and range of the punches to such a level that few others can imagine, let alone execute these punches. Like Kohli’s six in the ascent against Haris Rauf or Yadav’s whiplash behind the pitch.
It’s a treat for legside lovers – both are perhaps the best players in the strip, capable of using the shot to create boundaries in a wide arc from the center of the goal to just past the keeper’s left. However, they are so versatile that they could play shots all around the floor against all types of bowlers on all kinds of floors.
Yadav’s contribution to making India’s batting deadly cannot be overstated. He relieved the top three and lower midfield. Sharma, Kohli and KL Rahul could take more time to get their innings going knowing Yadav could step in at any moment and speed up the score. Just like Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik don’t have to worry about hitting every ball out of the ground from the first ball. He could fill a variety of roles – from anchor to enforcer and enforcer to destroyer. In his current form he is India’s top T20 batsman, arguably the top T20 batsman in the world. The work is stunning – 1060 runs with a 37 average and a batting average of 176, scoring over fifty in all three innings. He is the supposed missing link that has become the main piece.
Yadav was to this team what Yuvraj was to Dhoni’s 2007 T20 World Cup relay. He makes his hitting look easy; He also makes hitting others look easy. He relieved the fellow hitters without overtaxing himself. And with him and Kohli in top form, India could well be dreaming of the world title.