Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli seems to be a victim of his success. Runs have flowed from former Indian captain’s bat for such a long spell that a dip in form has become a topic of national debate. That’s the price to pay for being one of the best in the world.

Who are the best batsmen in the world? At the moment, it’s Joe Root. No doubt about it. The England batsman is in the form of his life; he can’t play a false stroke. Kohli too was there, scoring centuries at will. The format didn’t matter; the runs came. In fact, Kohli and Steven Smith raced each other, piling runs by the tons.

That seems so long ago. Kohli’s runs have dried up. For more than two years, Kohli hasn’t scored a century in international cricket: 32 innings, to be precise. Is that a problem? It is when you are the most successful batsmen of the era.

Sachin Tendulkar went through a similar patch, setting off alarm bells about his waning abilities. But the scrutiny wasn’t as bad. The knives were out when G.R. Vishwanath struggled for two seasons without a decent score. But the Karnataka maestro survived and rediscovered his touch.

Tendulkar and Vishwanath were gentlemen cricketers. Unlike them, Kohli bristles with aggression. He wears his heart on his sleeve, unafraid to sledge and refuses to ignore abuse hurled at him. He celebrates every wicket and every triumph with such gusto that his rivals must have been willing him to fail.

Virat Kohli
The star batter showed glimpses of his capabilities in the one-day series, but still big runs continue to elude him. Image Credit: Reuters

His pride, and maybe even his ego, only grew with his continued success. As captain, Kohli gave India a record winning streak. That made him the most-successful captain. His reign ended in unfortunate circumstances after a run-in with the India cricket board president, Sourav Ganguly. Kohli’s resigned; it looked like his hand was forced.

Maybe, the drama and resultant trauma affected him. True, Kohli was already in the midst of a lean spell, but the spat may have exacerbated the problem. If a player is not in the right frame of mind, concentration wavers, mistakes creep in and downfall ensues. Did that happen to Kohli? You never know.

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Captain or not, all players have gone through horrid patches. Errors creep into the game, the technique becomes flawed and cheap dismissals follow. Most players go back to their coaches and iron out the flaws. But the loss of confidence is not easily repaired. No coach can fix that. Only a bushel full of runs can restore the confidence.

Now, there’s a problem. When a batsman goes through a bad patch, luck too deserts him. There won’t be reprieves from dropped catches and even half-chances get stuck in the fielders’ hands. Slices of luck are luxuries afforded only to a batsman in resplendent form, not the one searching for tall scores.

Now, Kohli is searching for a semblance of normality in his batting. And it will come. He is too good a batsman to fail for so long. For every hill, there’s a valley. Kohli has fallen off the pedestal, one he’s occupied for a long time. So his dismal run too is bound to be extended. He has to ride out the run drought.

Kohli seems to be coping well, but the same cannot be said about the Indian cricket fans. The rasping cover drive will be back. Just you wait!

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli has been putting the hard yards at the nets hoping to end his below-par run by his own standards. Image Credit: Reuters

Comment: India should allow Virat Kohli the time to find his form

Shyam A. Krishna, Senior Associate Editor

Virat Kohli’s lack of runs in international cricket has displaced petrol prices as the hottest topic in India. Every cricket pundit and cricket fan has an opinion about it. Worse, they even have the antidote to end Kohli’s barren spell.

Makes me wonder: Is this the first time a superstar batsman has struck a lean patch? No. Not at all. As former England captain Kevin Pietersen says, every great batsman has gone through what Kohli is going through. So what’s the big deal? It’s just that public memory is very short.

Struggles with the bat

Look back at 1974, and you would find Sunil Gavaskar’s struggles with the bat. This is a batsman who, along with G.R. Vishwanath, shouldered the responsibility of India’s batting for a long time. Vishwanath too suffered two seasons of poor scores.

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If that was far too back, rewind to 2006 to find Sachin Tendulkar’s inability to cross 50 for a lengthy period. Australia’s Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke, England Alastair Cook and Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara too went through wretched spells of scoring.

So why can’t Kohli have a dip in form? If a superstar fails to deliver, what do we do? Drop him? There should be some modicum of common sense and a dollop of cricketing sense.

Much as he needs patience to rediscover his form, the Indian public and media should be patient. That will reduce the stress on Kohli to find a rich vein of form. And that’s a good knock away. Be patient.

Comment: Kohli’s bad run of form has been blown out of proportion

A.K.S. Satish, Sports Editor

Virat Kohli, the undisputed king of Indian cricket, a darling of the crowd, and a terror to the rivals, all seemed to be in the distant past. In the last few months, India’s star batter has been in the news for the wrong reasons, with some even questioning his place in the Indian side.

Is the criticism heaped on one of the stalwarts of Indian cricket justified? Kohli averages more than 50 in white-ball formats, while it’s just a shade under in Tests. Still, his performance has been put under a magnifying glass and blown out of proportion.

Since the Twenty20 World Cup is a few months away and the 50-over World Cup in India is next year, let’s look at Kohli’s stats in white-ball cricket over the last couple of years.

Kohli stats
Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal/Gulf News

Tests are the only format that Kohli has failed, averaging under 30 in 2020 and 2021. But that has happened to the best. This is exactly why skipper Rohit Sharma has been defending his underfire teammate.

Indian batting great Sachin Tendulkar, who averages 53.78 in Tests in 24 years, has gone through some years where he has averaged under 30 — a significant dip from his normal standards. The Master Blaster took 34 innings to complete his 100th hundred. Similarly, Kohli has not scored a century in 32 innings. That doesn’t mean they have not scored runs at all. In the last 18 Tests, when he didn’t get a century, Kohli scored six half-centuries and four 40-plus knocks, while Tendulkar had eight half-centuries before reaching the landmark. Is that a failure?

Half-century is deemed a failure 

Why is Kohli under so much pressure? Why is his place in the team questioned?

Kohli is a victim of his high standards, according to former Indian skipper Mohammed Azharuddin. A Kohli half-century is deemed a failure, while it is a success for others. The former skipper’s run of successes has given him a superman status, and the shortage of runs has diminished his powers. That’s why critics are gunning for his downfall.

While international players Babar Azam, Jos Buttler and Kevin Pietersen have lent support to Kohli, the criticism from former Indian players is getting louder.

They are also humans

Former Indian captain Kapil Dev was one critic. The all-rounder always figured in the Indian team even when his powers waned. For the record, Kapil took 15 wickets in 15 innings in 1993 and 9 wickets in 8 innings, during which he surpassed Richard Hadlee’s world record of 431 wickets in Tests in 1994. In the case of Kapil, the stats didn’t matter. It should apply to Kohli as well.

Tendulkar and Kohli may be superstars, but there are also humans. That’s why they fail. After opting out of the West Indies series, Kohli will have a long break and is likely to return for the Asia Cup.

It will be a big blunder if India travel to Australia for the Twenty20 World Cup without Kohli, who has a healthy record Down Under. That won’t happen because India knows Kohli’s quality.

What the international players said

Yes, now the situation is such that you might be forced to bench Kohli from T20 playing eleven. If world No. 2 bowler Ashwin can be dropped from Test side then (once upon a time) world No. 1 batter can also be dropped.

- Kapil Dev, Former Indian all-rounder and captain

See I do not agree with this concept of players resting. Not at all. ‘You don’t take rest during IPL, then why ask for it while playing for India? I don’t agree with it. You will have to play for India. Don’t talk about rest. There are only 20 overs in an innings in T20. That does not take any toll on your body. In Test matches, the mind and the body take a toll, I get that. But I don’t think there is much problem in T20 cricket.

- Sunil Gavaskar, Former Indian captain

When someone is scoring consistently for so long, we can’t overlook his contribution if he is not scoring in one or two series or in one or two years. We know the importance of Virat Kohli. The experts have got all the right to talk about it but for us these things don’t matter.

- Rohit Sharma, Indian skipper

He’s been a fantastic player for so many years and all batters, it just proves, go through runs of form where they don’t perform as well as they can do sometimes. But certainly, as an opposition captain, you know a player of that class is always due, so you’re hoping that it doesn’t come against us. Incredibly surprised, as I said, his record speaks for himself. The matches he’s won for India and why would you question that.

- Jos Buttler, England white-ball captain

This too shall pass. Stay strong. #ViratKohli

- Babar Azam, Pakistan skipper

I think everybody is waiting for a hundred from him, which hasn’t come for a long time. If you take a look at his past record, he used to score a hundred in every 3-4 matches, that hasn’t happened for some time now and maybe that is why there is so much talk about it. Hum bhi ek aise khiladi k saath khela karte the jinka naam Sachin Tendulkar hai (we used to play with another such cricketer, whose name is Sachin Tendulkar). If he hadn’t scored runs for 3-4 innings, there used to be discussion used to reach a stage where it felt like he hadn’t scored for long. He also used to score in every 3-4 innings, the same is with Virat Kohli.

- Virender Sehwag, Former Indian opener

Buddy, your career has had some of the best that have played the game only wish they could have done what you have(so far). Be proud, walk tall & enjoy life. There’s way more than just the bubble of cricket out there. You’ll be back, @virat.kohli

- Kevin Pietersen, Former England star