Fair to say, Virat and his dry patch have extended for an eternity now. Yesterday’s timid dismissal has further opened the can of discussion regarding Kohli and his future on the Indian side. Is it the time for Kohli to step back, retire gracefully or prove everyone wrong? We evaluate the two situations here.
Chasing a modest target of 158 against visitors West Indies, the Indian team on Wednesday managed to chisel out a win in what turned out to be a tense thriller after the initial outburst by skipper Rohit Sharma. India earned the win to go 1-0 up in the three-match series, but the chase should never have gone to the 20th over if no. 3 Virat Kohli had kept his calm.
After the debacle in the ODI series where Kohli ended up with scores reading eight, 18, and nought, expectations were high from Kohli to change the numbers. While Kohli conjuring up another disappointment was not big news. A manner that has become rather frequent and consistent with his batting.
Virat throughout his career, especially for the national side has played the role of an anchor which steers the innings all through the twenty overs. The other dashers play around him while Virat makes sure that the tempo is maintained.
India’s obsolete white-ball template
However, India’s white-ball template of seeing off the new ball and teeing at the end has now become obsolete. It was perhaps, the reason why India was so brutally ejected out of the last year’s T20 World Cup and has failed to win any ICC silverware in the last eight years.
Thus, the chatter has been growing to employ a new strategy, akin to what the England or West Indies use. The new template involves going extremely hard at the top and keeping the scoring rate high through the middle and end. Essentially, the teams are drilled to carry the onslaught and not worry about the wickets.
The strategy has worked beautifully for England. After the horrid run at 2015 50 over World Cup, England has emerged as a major force in the white-ball format. However, the caveat with this format is that traditional accumulators have to change their game as well.
Kohli’s uncharacteristic style of cricket
And it looks like Virat, who is already going through a severe crisis batting-wise (discounting Tests) and confidence-wise, is unable to keep up with the demands of the new template. Former cricketer and commentator Akash Chopra took a view of Kohli’s innings on Wednesday where he looked uncharacteristically hurried and threw away his wicket at a crucial stage of the innings.
Chopra said, “Virat Kohli did not score runs again and the way he is getting out, that’s very unlike him. We are doing very little conversation about Virat Kohli, which is never a good thing. We are not even talking about him, that is hurting me, that must be hurting him,”
Chopra elaborated upon his statement, “Virat Kohli never used to do like this earlier, that if a six is not required, he never used to hit it and scored through singles or fours. He was risk-averse, that he will not play the risky shots at all. That is what Virat was all about but now he is not playing like that and that is a bit of a concern,“
Youngsters vying for Virat’s position
For the first time in many years, the selection committee posed faith in the youngsters for the T20 team. The infusion of Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Harshal Patel, Shreyas Iyer, Venkatesh Iyer, and Ruturaj Gaikwad – all proven T20 performers has given a glimmer that the Indian side is looking to reinvent the wheel.
However, it appears that Kohli at the key position is slowing down the team. He may play a pivotal part when the pitch is tacky, slow or the wickets fall in a flurry but the team need not mould its strategy for the exception.
This year’s world cup is in Australia and the pitches are going to be hard belters, conducive for batting. Thus, if Kohli wants to retain his place on the T20 side, he needs to start performing once again. We will happily eat our words and why not, after all, he has been a tremendous player over the years.
Virat needs to take a break to revitalize
However, if history has shown us anything, every big player, once in a while needs a little shakedown. Kohli, at the moment, appears immovable, and that perhaps breeds complacency. He is on the wrong side of his thirties and may not be in his prime. And hence it makes all the more sense from the selectors and the team management to give a little tap to the former skipper.
Most importantly, Kohli needs to channel his energy into the game. Kohli is not the naturally gifted player like, say, Rohit Sharma. He rose to the top because of his sheer mental toughness and hard work. Kohli is still putting in the hard yards but he looks a little weak under the cranium.
The controversy regarding the captaincy, woke gestures and infighting with the teammates has probably diverted his attention. If Kohli, the batter can drown out the white noise and get his basics right, we may very well see a resurgence.
Virat Kohli has not scored an international hundred since November 2019. His clock has been stuck on 70 centuries, refusing to tick further. At one time, everyone believed that he would easily emulate Sachin’s record of 100 tons. However, such has been the change in fortunes that it will be a bigger milestone if Kohli gets to the 71st than 100th.