Cricket - New Zealand v India - First Test - Basin Reserve, Wellington, New Zealand - February 21, 2020   India's Virat Kohli walks off dejected after losing his wicket   REUTERS/Martin Hunter
Indian captain Virat Kohli walks off dejected after losing his wicket in the first innings against New Zealand on Friday. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: When Indian skipper Virat Kohli took a wild swing at Trent Boult when on 19 - only to be caught behind on the third day of their first Test match against New Zealand today - it betrayed a clear sign of frustration from the master batsman to break free of his poor sequence of scores in the ongoing tour.

Just ponder over Kohli’s pickings across all three formats in the current series - 45,11, 38, 11, 51,15,9, 2,19. There is only one fifty in the one-dayers and a 40-plus in the T20s in nine innings - a record which is not at exactly flattering in view of the superhuman feats that he has racked up over the last decade - especially in the last five to six years.

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There is no doubt that batting at Basin Reserve, where the crosswinds can play havoc in terms of creating movement of the red ball, is one of the toughest jobs in Test cricket. This is where the cliche of ‘when the going gets tough, the tough gets going’ should come handy but the best batsman in the world seems to have fallen short in this area. In the first innings, he played for seven deliveries before poking a swinging delivery on the fifth stump line, managing an edge and was ultimately caught by Ross Taylor at slip.

There is another piece of statistic which has not gone unnoticed - the maestro has not reached a three-figure mark in his last 20 innings. His last century came in the day-night Test against Bangladesh in Kolkata last year when he scored 136 against a pedestrian bowling attack.

In a sparkling first decade of his international career, Kohli has had the experience of going without a century at least on two occasions. The most nightmarish one was between February to October 2014, when he had failed to reach the three-figure mark in 25 innings across formats. This included the England tour where he managed to amass only 134 runs in five Tests.

Before that, he had failed to hit a hundred in 24 consecutive innings between February to September 2011 - but that was a phase when Kohli was very much a work in progress and had not made his way regularly in the Test squad.

What is it that’s bothering Indian cricket’s jewel in the crown? Kohli himself had found a solution to his problems against the moving ball after his poor 2014 series in England and he is certainly one big innings away from getting back into the groove again.

However, it will be a test of his character if the fatigue factor has anything to do it. Despite being the workhorse that he, Kohli has often spoken about the need for workload management of the international players - referring to his own ‘300 days of cricket in a year.’

Kohli made his Test debut in June 2011 and the ongoing Test against New Zealand is his 85th in nine years. The appearances in white ball cricket are simply overwhelming - over 12 years of ODI cricket, he has played 247 matches and in a decade-long T20 international career, he has played 82 matches. In addition to this, he has played 177 Indian Premier League (IPL) games for the Royal Challengers Bangalore over 11 seasons.

There will be patches as he enters the second decade of his career (ask Sachin Tendulkar) where the going will get tough - and the only solution before Kohli will be to be persevering and scrape his way out of it.

We can only wait and watch!