India captain Virat Kohli is feeling the heat
The heat is certainly on Virat Kohli, but Indian cricket is certainly not ready to do without him in any of the three formats. Image Credit: ANI

Kolkata: From Kapil Dev to Venkatesh Prasad or Virendra Sehwag, the call for dropping Virat Kohli on current form has been growing louder - particularly after the Edgbaston Test where the master batsman failed to get going in either innings. What, of course, didn’t help matters was both Kohli and Rohit Sharma opting to rest from the three-match ODI series against the West Indies at the end of the month.

What, hence, has been a somewhat hushed talk last year has now grown into a reasonable demand - particularly in the T20 format - where the former Indian captain’s modest strike-rate could turn out to be a liability in a showpiece event like the T20 World Cup later this year.

Someone like Sunil Gavaskar said without naming names that when it comes to IPL, the players can carry on continously for two months but they do need rest when it comes to the national team cause. Now, let’s face it, the IPL had been the veritable pot of gold for all stakeholders of the game - including the TV pundits - so much so that they went on lobbying hard for it to continue even when the dreaded second wave of Covid-19 was sweeping the country last year.


To be fair to Kohli, he was one of the few cricketers who spoke about striking a balance in the international calendar when he was the captain. It’s not difficult to fathom why ‘rest’ is almost such a dirty word in Indian cricket given the kind of non-stop international calendar that they pursue - with the pressure almost a choking one for the likes of Kohli, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant or pace bowlers like Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami - who play all the formats.

A little jogging of memory will tell us that it was only after a non-stop rigour of international cricket for 13 years, Kohli took the first step of easing the workload on himself when he volunteered to step down from T20 captaincy ahead of the World Cup last year. Rohit, more of a white ball giant for a better part of his career, stepped into Test cricket regularly as an opener only from 2019. Sachin Tendulkar, meanwhile, was allowed the privilege of picking and choosing his matches towards the later stages of his career.

There is virtually no point in reminding everyone that it’s been nearly three years - and more than 100 competitive matches - that Kohli has not had a century. But then, let’s take a long, hard look as to just how bad has been his form?

A little bit of number-crunching surprisingly reveals that he hasn’t done too badly across three formats - in 32 Test innings since his last century against Bangladesh in the Pink ball Test, he has had six half-centuries and four 40s; in 21 ODIs since his last century in the 50-overs format (also in 2019), he has had 10 half-centuries while in T20s, he played 25 matches (23 innings) since his highest score of 94 in this format again, he has had seven half-centuries and two 40-plus scores.

Certainly not enough, but there had been patches when he looked in control once again - a good example being the half-century he scored at number three against the West Indies at the Eden Gardens earlier this year. What had been really worrying is the identical manner of his dismissals across three formats, which naturally accentuates in the seaming conditions of England, combined with a performance anxiety that Kohli has failed to rid of. It’s not that he had been closed to suggestions on the cricketing front - though one wonders if it’s time for him to take any form of psychiatric help.

Finally, is it time to drop Kohli yet, even if from the shortest format? My answer would be no. What he possibly needs is an extended break, not just skipping yet another irrelevant bi-lateral series to save himself of the travel, to get his mojo back.

Indian cricket, as the current captaincy crisis has shown, is not ready to do without him yet!