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Kohli and Dhoni
Kohli and Dhoni

Virat Kohli maintained his top spot in the latest ICC rankings of T20 batsmen while India have gained a spot by virtue of their series win against England to climb to the second spot in the team rankings. Kohli leads number-two ranked Aaron Finch of Australia by 28 points, while Glenn Maxwell of Australia is third.

Kohli is ranked second in Tests and third in ODIs which makes him the only Indian batsman in top five across all formats. Jasprit Bumrah also maintained his second position in the bowlers’ table with a four-point difference between him and Imran Tahir. Ravichandran Ashwin is 8th in the list while Ashish Nehra is 24th.

England’s Joe Root and India wrist-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal have made impressive gains after rankings released today following the three-match series, which concluded yesterday.

Root finished as the leading run-scorer in the series with 126 runs for which he has been rewarded with a two-place jump putting him in fifth position. Among Indian batsmen, next best is KL Rahul, who gained 15 places to be at 15th.

India’s Yuzvendra Chahal, who took six for 25 in the series decider the third-best figures in the shortest format of the game to date -has rocketed 92 places to claim 86th position.

India captain Virat Kohli hailed his team’s “strong character” after the hosts clinched a thrilling 5-run win over England in the second Twenty20 International at Nagpur to draw level and take the three-match series to the decider in Bangalore.

India posted 144/8 after being sent into bat in the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium. England, seemingly in control, faltered at the end to be restricted to 139/6.

Kohli said it was important to have the belief and praised his bowlers for executing really well under pressure. “It’s important to have belief. It was a case of us executing really well initially. Bumrah and Nehra were outstanding in the end. To defend 40 in five overs with dew present is outstanding. Strong character shown by the side, something I am proud of,” he said.

Young pacer Jasprit Bumrah bowled an inspired last over, conceding only two runs, to deny England a victory. He finished the match with figures of 20/2 in his four overs, giving away only three runs in the 18th over.

Virat Kohli is the top player in the world at the moment
Virat Kohli is the top player in the world at the moment

Virat Kohli is not new to international captaincy. He’s been at the helm of the Test side for two years now. He’s led the 50-over side in MS Dhoni’s absence in the past and while the England series may have been his first stint as T20I captain, he’s been prepped for the post sufficiently by his IPL experiences, where he leads Royal Challengers Bangalore.

But it always helps to have a sounding board for decisions, particularly if that sounding board comes with an experience of having led India in 271 limited-overs games.

In the heat of India’s defence of 203 in the series decider in Bengaluru, Kohli was engaged in a long-chat with MS Dhoni. It has been a recurring pattern through the series, one that has seen Ashish Nehra’s inclusion in the elite brains trust during the T20s. Top of his agenda was to formulate the next plan of attack after Yuzvendra Chahal’s double strike had dented England’s spirited chase, leaving them at 119 for 4 after 14 overs.

With England needing 84 from 36, Kohli was tempted to get another filler over in from Hardik Pandya, whose two overs had gone for 17. Dhoni, however, had other ideas and it was Jasprit Bumrah who began warming up. It was a timely piece of advice, one that was vindicated by the seamer who finished with figures of 3 for 14, paving the way for India’s series-clinching win. It was also a good lesson in situation reaction under pressure situations for Kohli, who was quick to acknowledge Dhoni’s contribution in his development as a short-format skipper. “I have said this before, and you would have seen this on the field -I take a lot of advice from MS and am always speaking a lot to Ashish Nehra too,” Kohli said. “In the ODI series, I was talking to MS a lot. Although I have captained in the Test format for a while, ODI and T20 games move very fast. So to take advice from a person who has captained the side at this level for so long and understands the game really well is never a bad idea in crucial situations.

“I follow my instincts most of the time, but even today, I was speaking to him and Nehra. Bringing on Bumrah right after that over from Chahal, I was thinking of giving Pandya another over instead. Both of them suggested that let’s not wait till the 19th over and instead bring on the main bowlers. So these things really help when you are a new captain in the limitedovers format. But again, I am not new to captaincy, but there has to be a balance between understanding the skills needed to lead in shorter formats -MS has been helping a lot on that front.”

But captaincy is only a small part of India’s new-found resilience. Throughout the England series, in the Tests and the ODIs preceding this T20I series, the team has been pushed into a corner only for new heroes to emerge. Jayant Yadav made his mark from one such occasion in the Tests while Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya were revelations in the one-dayers. According to Kohli, this mentality stems from a collective need to grow beyond individual contributions.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m captain or Mahi bhai [Dhoni] was captain before. The talk has always been to take responsibility as individuals,” Kohli said. “It’s about wanting to make a difference for Team India… taking equal ownership of the team. That’s the only way the team can become a champion side. And that’s one reason why we’ve bounced back from difficult situations because we have always kept the team’s goals in our head before doing anything. And that’s why you see special performances from guys who haven’t played so many games. The urge to win games for the team pushes them to limits which they don’t otherwise realise about themselves”

These qualities were once again put on display in Bengaluru after India had been put into bat on a happy chasing ground. Kohli departed cheaply again but KL Rahul and Suresh Raina’s counter-attack ensured India seldom went into a rebuild phase, even for a short time thereby not allowing England’s spinners the cushion of bowling at two passive batsmen.

“Against teams like England you need more mental preparation than the physical work in the gym or practice sessions,” Kohli said. “One thing I think we did really well was to fight fire with fire. We were not willing to take a backward step even after getting couple of not too big totals in the first two games. The way we batted was again a revelation. Even after me getting out initially, Raina and KL didn’t stop their instincts. Which is needed in T20 cricket. To reveal themselves, to find their characters, players need to play that way. They don’t need to think about what’s happened. They need to keep thinking and looking ahead. That’s exactly what we did this game.