India captain Virat Kohli, arguably the best batsmen in the world scored 38 runs and averaged 9.50 in the 2 Tests against New Zealand. Yes, it is the same Kohli, who says he thinks there is nothing wrong with his game, the same Kohli who does not give two hoots to the ‘outside noise’.
Mohammed Shami, a bowler with an overall Test career batting average of 11.29, scored more than Kohli in the series. These comparisons are not to take away any of Kohli’s achievements but just to show that there is something seriously wrong with the ‘intent’ the captain keeps on talking about. The 31-year-old batsman, who has 70 international tons, is struggling and it has been 22 innings since he raised his bat after the triple-digit score.
For digging in more, one should go back to 2014 when Kohli had already become the next big thing in Indian cricket. The Indian team was touring England to play Tests for the first time after 2011 and Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, and Virender Sehwag were no more around. All eyes were set on India’s latest batting sensation Virat Kohli but what happened then was something no one expected in their wildest dream, though that is how test cricket is, it gives you a real test from time to time.
A young Kohli played 10 innings and scored 134 runs at an average of 13.40. He got out for ducks on 2 occasions as England pacers were all over him. Stuart Broad, James Anderson, and Chris Jordan all took their turns to haunt Kohli as he got out every time around the stump. Kohli went back with a scar which he would erase 4 years later.
Virat Kohli scored just 134 runs in 5 Tests on the 2014 England tour (Reuters)
In 2018, Kohli was touring England as the captain of the Indian team and it was natural that a lot was being talked about the 2014 horror series of cricket’s latest wonder boy. Virat Kohli had surely matured in these 4 years and had worked hard with all the ‘intent’ he keeps on talking about currently. He scored 149 in the 1st innings of that series and by the end of the series he had redeemed himself. The right-hand batsmen scored 593 runs in the series and finished as the top run-getter. The roar of Kohli in that series spread like a wildfire and it announced that ‘King Kohli’ has arrived and is there to stay.
But no, the ghosts from Kohli’s past re-appeared. This time the ghosts got even scarier and that meant lesser runs and lesser average for Kohli than that 2014 England series. The names of the ghosts got changed, from Anderson and Broad to Trent Boult and Tim Southee. The world number 1 Test batsmen in the series looked perplexed and had no idea where the ball would move, his footwork so dull that they opened up massive windows for the balls to pass through it or hit the pads.
There were early hints for it but that were in one-dayers which Kohli has stopped caring for now. The first hint was during the 2019 World Cup semifinal vs New Zealand when Kohli for sure was respectful to the format. With Rohit Sharma gone, the nation was looking up to Kohli but Boult again had Kohli exposed to swing bowling. On the 6th delivery of his innings, Kohli got out plumb.
Kohli and Pujara were expected to form the bulk of Indian batting in New Zealand (Reuters)
Kohli did no wonders on this tour’s T20I and ODI series too. The Indian captain was clean bowled in the first 2 ODIs and in the 3rd ODI a confused but not ready to admit Kohli played an odd shot to get back to the pavilion and wait for an ODI whitewash.
The questions will be raised because so many things have been said by the captain. After getting whitewashed in the ODIs, he said ODIs are not a priority currently but if that is the case why did India lose so badly in the Tests? He said his batsmen are being very cautious and gave suggestions but why could not he score with his aggression. He says we lost to a better team but isn’t his team the ‘best Indian touring side in 15 years’ according to his coach Ravi Shastri.
Virat Kohli has run the Indian cricket on his whims and fancies, he even got a coach of his choice and that is completely fine but Indian cricket needs some real ‘intent’ which could visibly be seen and not just heard. Captain Kohli can redeem himself at the end of the year if he and his team tame the mighty Australians at their home. The redemption will be huge as Kangaroos are jumping high this time in the presence of Steve Smith, David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc. Australia’s intent for sure looks clear.
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