AS THE full toss left Andre Russell’s blade and settled deep into the stands, dropping a deathly silence across the Wankhede Stadium, Virat Kohli stood dazed, gazing at the trajectory of the ball and perhaps wondering what else he could have done.
For the umpteenth time in the World Twenty20, the 27-year-old had papered over the cracks in India’s top order, his unbeaten 89 accounting for almost half of his country’s 192 in the semi-final against West Indies.
In between the 11 boundaries and single six that flowed from his bat, the supreme athlete ran himself ragged, regularly converting singles into twos and occasionally two into threes.
Kohli the bowler also resurfaced when it mattered.
The evening dew had effectively defanged the Indian spinners, while their pacers bled boundaries, leaving Mahendra Singh Dhoni in an unenviable position.
The India captain, as is his wont, sprang a surprise by tossing the ball to Kohli and the part-time dibbly-dobbler struck immediately, dismissing the dangerous Johnson Charles (52) with his first delivery and ending a 97-run partnership.
Kohli was in the thick of things again in the 18th over, collaborating with Ravindra Jadeja to almost send back West Indies hero Lendl Simmons.
Jadeja took a running catch but as momentum was taking him over the ropes, he lobbed the ball inside for Kohli to grab. TV replays, however, confirmed Jadeja’s foot had touched the boundary and it was declared a six.
Simmons and Russell set alight a hot and humid night with batting pyrotechnics that left the 2012 champions needing only eight runs off the last over.
Once again, Dhoni handed the ball to Kohli, hoping the golden arm of the man who could do no wrong would pull off a miracle. It was not to be.
Kohli conceded a single off the first delivery and followed it up with a dot ball to raise Indian hopes of an improbable victory.
Russell hit the following ball for four, though, and deposited the next over deep mid-wicket and into the stands to break 1.2 billion Indian hearts.
As Russell and Simmons were mobbed by their team mates, Kohli stood alone with his thoughts.
India’s Test captain finished the World Twenty20 with 273 runs from five innings with a staggering 136-plus average and a strike rate of almost 147.
Only Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal (295) scored more and he had the advantage of playing extra matches in the qualifying stage of the tournament.
His prodigious scoring means Kohli will remain in the mix for the player-of-the-tournament award but for a proud team man, it would probably mean very little.