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Decoding Virat Kohli’s batting predicament

Virat Kohli has never been the same after the disastrous England tour (Photo Courtesy: ESPNCricinfo)
Virat Kohli has never been the same after the disastrous England tour. (Photo Courtesy: ESPNCricinfo)

It was July 2014. The skies were overcast at Lord’s and the action nothing short of riveting. Despite conceding a slender lead, India had managed to come back strongly courtesy a gritty partnership between Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara. When Pujara fell, Virat Kohli arrived at the crease. However, lacking conviction or reason, India’s star batsman shouldered arms to a delivery from Liam Plunkett and was dismissed for a golden duck.

Even though India won the match, Kohli’s dismissal was a significant moment for Indian cricket. Anointed as the heir to Sachin Tendulkar’s throne, his English summer spiralled into a never-ending abyss as he was repeatedly bullied by James Anderson. After India had been demolished by a resurgent England side in the series, Kohli’s failures evoked diabolical reactions from cricket experts.

Ever since that horrific tour, the Delhi dasher has struggled to adapt to the moving ball. Upon his entry, he is greeted by the opposition’s premier  pace bowler who is backed by a strong slip-cordon. On seaming pitches, the edge is almost inevitable.

Despite a blockbuster tour of Australia in which he reeled one century after another on flat pitches, Kohli seems to have lost the ability to rein himself in during difficult situations. Often playing away from his body without gauging the bounce or pace in the wicket, the right-hander looks a pale shadow of the batsman he was during the South Africa tour.

Displaying remarkable assurance and temperament on a difficult wicket in Johannesburg against Dale Steyn and company, Kohli had scored 119 and 96. He was hailed by the then South African bowling coach Allan Donald who admitted the dual knocks reminded him of his distinguished peer, Sachin Tendulkar.

Kohli’s Test career is unfairly compared to his limited-overs exploits where he still remains one of the most dangerous batsmen in the world. However, while he has made a highly successful start to his Test captaincy by defeating the Proteas on raging turners, his batting continues to remain stagnant.

There are several issues which Kohli needs to address in order to realize his ambitions of going down in history as a great Test batsman. And he has examples to learn from right in his team, in the form of Vijay and Pujara, who have shown enormous patience and put a huge price on their wicket.

The first step in regaining his form will come from showing restraint during the start of each innings and gradually settling himself into a nice rhythm. In an era of constant video analysis, he will definitely be tested in the fourth stump channel. But it is up to the talented batsman to iron out that crease from his technique.

He can answer his detractors in style by controlling the urge to play his favorite shots before establishing himself into the proceedings. His icon Tendulkar once went through an entire innings in Australia without playing a single cover drive and got himself a double century.

There is no reason why Kohli cannot overcome the temporary slump in his Test batting as he has demonstrated the willingness to strengthen his approach. And, there is no better place to start rediscovering himself than his home ground in Delhi, which is also the venue of the final Test of the Freedom Trophy against the Proteas.

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