Kolkata: Is it time to be worried about Virat Kohli’s form yet? The Indian skipper’s dismissal for a duck, his third in the last five innings against England, have raised murmurs in some quarters and the man himself tried to put things in perspective after India lost the first T20 International against England at Ahmedabad on Friday.
Now 32 and having stepped into the second decade of his glittering international career, Kohli said that such ‘‘ups and downs’’ are bound to be a part of life during a long journey in international cricket. It’s the right perspective to judge things, rather than be anxious, and Kohli can pick the brains of someone like Sachin Tendulkar to find ways of dealing with the pressure of expectations - especially in the light of such a high benchmark he has set for himself so long.
The talk is understandable in light of the fact that his last Test century came in November, 2019 in the pink ball Test against Bangladesh - while the last one in One-day Internationals came in August that year. This effectively means he has not reached the three figures in the last 15 months or so, but it’s pertinent to remember that India did not play in international cricket for nearly nine months in 2020 between the tour of New Zealand and that of Down Under.
Kohli’s highest score in the last Test series against England was 72, while the closest he has got to a century in the last six months in any cricket was when he struck 89 in the second ODI against Australia.
The reassuring thing about his art is that there have been enough examples that he is striking the ball well - right from the time competitive cricket began for him in the last Indian Premier League (IPL) in the UAE to the Australia tour where he topscored with a technically resilient 74 in the first innings of the pink ball Test in Adelaide. He was not part of the next three Tests and then in the second Test against England in Chennai, Kohli’s 62 was a masterclass against spin bowling on a treacherous Chennai track.
A price that someone of Kohli’s stature, and consistency so far, pays is that a duck - more so a golden one - will get doubly accentuated. The way he was done in by the extra bounce from Ben Stokes in the last Test against England in Ahmedabad, followed by his soft dismissal to leg spinner Adel Rahid in the first T20I again were bound to raise the question mark about his form all over again.
Rashid, who opened with the new ball and had accounted for Kohli a number of times before, induced a mis-timed drive from him to be caught at mid on - and the spinner deserves more kudos than any confidence crisis on part of Kohli.
A closer look at the Kohli 2.0 will reveal that there is a subtle change in his style now - it’s more about the use of wrists to find the gaps while he is looking to play the anchor in the white ball format rather than trying to finish the matches all by himself. It’s something which he had been doing to perfection for Royal Challengers Bangalore and leaving the role of finisher to the dashing AB de Villiers in the last IPL in the UAE. He will be looking to do the same thing in the T20s as well, leaving the job of the explosion to a potent late order comprising of the likes of Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya.
It may be the birth of a mellower Kohli, who gave it his all to score 70 international centuries in the first decade. A big one may be round the corner from him in the second T20 on Sunday for all the talk to stop!