Virat Kohli, the Indian captain and one of the greatest batsmen of all time, is somewhat going through a lean patch at the moment in red-ball cricket. He has averaged below 25 in his last 11 Test matches since the start of 2020. This includes India’s tour to New Zealand, one Test match in Australia, the World Test Championship final and seven Tests against England (four at home, three away).
With scores of 0, 42, 20, 7 and 55 in the ongoing five-match series in England, it is fair to say that Kohli has not failed. That said, he is far from the incredibly high standards set by himself.
The main problem is that not only is he not getting big scores, but there has been a set pattern in Kohli’s dismissals. Every time the ball has swung away, the Indian skipper has been drawn forward to play it and he has six times nicked it behind. Poking at deliveries that need to be left alone is the root cause of the problem. In these conditions, even the slightest lapse in concentrations can be fatal.
There it is. That corridor. And indeed, Kohli is uncertain.
Former England skipper Nasser Hussain, writing in The Daily Mail, had this to say: “Kohli is not sure whether to play or leave and whether to set himself for the inswinger or not. He doesn’t know what to do. It’s high-class bowling and it’s not going to get any easier for him.”
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The great Sunil Gavaskar feels that Kohli should do away with the cover drive at the moment and try to replicate Sachin Tendulkar’s iconic 241 at the SCG. Sanjay Manjrekar believes that Kohli needs to leave the ball outside off stump just like he did in 2018 to succeed again.
Kohli himself said during a pre-match press conference that one has to keep his ego in his pocket while playing in England. However, he has been unable to walk the talk this time. And evidently, that is what stood out for Kohli in 2018.
Kohli, during India’s tour of England in 2018, carried the Indian batting lineup single-handedly. He had a dream tour from an individual performance point of view: 593 runs in five Tests at an average of 59.3. Another difference is that Kohli is now unable to convert his starts into big hundreds.
What if the burden of expectations and hunger to rule England again is causing problems?
“I feel more than preparation, Virat Kohli, looking to dominate, is forcing him to play deliveries outside off-stump. It is just that small thing. More than technical, Virat Kohli’s aggressive thinking is causing him problems,” said Irfan Pathan on Aakash Chopra’s YouTube channel recently.
What has surprised many experts the most is that Kohli is repeating his mistakes. A man who is defined by resilience and who takes pride in correcting himself as soon as possible. A few months ago, Kohli was bowled for a duck by Moeen Ali in the first innings in Chennai. Into the next innings, in a span of two days, he corrected himself and made an elegant 62 on a turning day three track.
At Leeds last week, Kohli departed for a well-made 55 in the second innings. Once again, he could not convert the start but this was unquestionably his cleanest innings of the series so far. On his YouTube channel, Pakistan legend Inzamam Ul Haq said: “I feel that Kohli is comfortable at the crease for the first time in the series, where the ball is coming onto his bat. I now see him in a comfort zone, his comfort levels will increase after he reaches 50.”
Thought that innings of 55 at Headingley came in a losing cause, it should will still give Kohli some confidence. Here’s hoping, with the series at 1-1 and two Tests to go, that King Kohli will make it count this time and will be back with a bang.