There have been more talks about Virat Kohli‘s personal records and milestones, most notably, him matching Sachin Tendulkar’s all-time record for most ODI centuries (49), than about his role in the Indian batting line-up in the 2023 World Cup. If captain Rohit Sharma, stepping out of his comfort zone, has been setting up the tone early in the match with his brand-new aggressive cricket, Kohli has been crucial in keeping the momentum alive while often at times changing gear to play second fiddle and take the game deep. With 594 runs and 503 runs in nine innings respectively, Kohli and Rohit have been the backbone of Indian batting in this World Cup and hence will be raring to keep the form alive when the Men in Blue will look to exact their 2019 revenge in the semifinal clash against New Zealand in Mumbai on Wednesday. But both the stars will have a bigger curse to break in a bid to make a case for India in the much-anticipated clash.
Kohli has been at his brutal best in 2023 World Cup, tearing apart records after records each time he takes the crease. He has already smashed two hundreds and five half-centuries in amassing 594 runs at an average of 99. This is the most runs he has ever scored in four World Cup appearances. He stands six runs short of being the second Indian batter to score 600 or more runs in a single World Cup edition after Sachin (673 runs in 2003) and Rohit (648 runs in 2019) and 80 runs shy of taking down yet another of his idol’s ultimate records. And the latter would also take him past the India legend for the most fifty-plus knocks in a single World Cup edition with both currently tied at 7.
Kohli do have a few big personal achievements to look forward to in the match against New Zealand, but the curse of the semifinal looms large over the modern-era great.
Kohli’s knockout troubles
Kohli relishes challenges. Kohli relishes when the stakes are higher. And in a big game like the one that awaits on Wednesday, you would want to put your money on the 35-year-old to put on his best ever show in what is likely to be his final World Cup appearance. But the pressure of the big stage seems to have gotten the better of Kohli in all his last three appearances in a World Cup semifinal. He had managed 9 off 21 in 2011 semifinal against Pakistan in Mohali, 1 off 13 in 2015 against Australia in Sydney and 1 off 8 in 2019 against New Zealand in Manchester.
Not only in semifinals, the numbers remain concerning even in the two quarterfinals India played in 2011 and 2015 where he managed 24 off 33 against Australia and 3 off 8 against Bangladesh respectively. His only notable score in a knockout game was in the 2011 final when he scored a crucual 35 off 49 while stitching a valiant 83-run stand alongside Gautam Gambhir after India had lost two quick wickets in the powerplay. Overall, he averages only 12.16 in six appearances in a knockout game of an ODI World Cup.
Adding to his concern, all his three dismissals in a World Cup semifinal have been against a left-arm pacer. It was Wahab Riaz in 2011, Mitchell Johnson in 2015 and Trent Boult in 2019. And he will be up against the latter on Wednesday, yet again. However, Kohli will look to draw confidence from India’s league-stage tie against New Zealand where he had managed 24 runs in 17 deliveries against Boult on a batting-friendly Dharamsala track.
What about Rohit Sharma?
The Indian captain too doesn’t have a very pleasant semifinal record to show as well as he has managed only 35 runs across two appearances in 2015 and 2019. He managed 34 off 48 against Australia in 2015 and was dismissed by New Zealand’s Matt Henry for just 1 off 4 in the 2019 game.
Albeit a smaller sample size, compared to that of Kohli, Rohit will play a far bigger role for India on Wednesday given the brand of cricket he has been playing throughout as the hosts look to beat New Zealand for the second straight time in a World Cup meeting.