Virat Kohli's Two Years

Virat Kohli's Two Years
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Virat Kohli's Two Years

It’s been a weird two years in Virat Kohli’s career. 2020 and 2021, two years where COVID has had a death grip on our lives and also upset the sports calendar.

Ever since cricket resumed and Kohli was back playing cricket, there has been a clamour for his 71st international hundred. There is no denying the fact that most people love milestones but milestones are an outcome of processes. India achieved monumental feat of beating Australia in Australia in a series where there were so many injuries that back up net bowlers Washington Sundar and T Natarajan made test debuts, and then winning two memorable test matches in England before the tour was cut short. All of this was achieved because of processes of the team as a whole rather than individual players going in search of milestones.

Then came his retirement from T20I captaincy before the T20 World Cup, which India exited in the group stage.

Kohli said the decision was well received completely contradicting BCCI president, Mr. Sourav Ganguly’s statement that he had requested Kohli to stay on as the selectors didn’t want two captains in white ball format. Kohli has been sacked from ODI captaincy and while he did inform the office bearers and selectors that it would be fine if they decided that he shouldn’t lead in the other two formats (ODIs and tests), he said that there was no communication to him prior to his removal and he was contacted 1.5 hours before the selection meeting when the decision was made.

Questions have been surrounding BCCI’s accountability and transparency for some time now whether it was regarding the payment of prize money to women’s team for reaching the final of 2020 T20 world cup, Rohit Sharma’s injury during IPL 2020, WIPL or the delay in compensation to the domestic cricketers. Miscommunication regarding Kohli’s captaincy is the latest addition to this list.

Let us take a look at Virat’s career during 2020 and 2021, prior to the upcoming South Africa tour.

During this phase Kohli played 13 out of the 17 tests that India played averaging 26.04. For players who played a minimum of 10 tests for India in this period, only two averaged over 30. That tells you a bit about the struggles of the Indian batters and also the conditions that they have played in. Only Rohit Sharma with 906 runs at 47.68 and Rishabh Pant with 795 runs at 36.13, found ways to score runs in different conditions. Rohit got starts in Australia, was technically India’s best batter on raging turners at home along with Pant and in swinging conditions in England. Pant had a year to remember with his heroics in Australia, though his batting in conditions conducive to movement needs work.

During this period, Kohli played NZ tests in Feb 2020 managing only 38 runs from 4 innings, a tour where Mayank Agarwal was India’s highest run getter with 102 runs at an average of 25, before the pandemic brought cricket to a halt. Then he played the lone infamous 36 all out test in Adelaide before taking a paternity leave, came back to play on raging turners vs England, conditions with swing and seam in England and then the lone test vs New Zealand where he got a controversial umpiring decision in the first inning. While he didn’t score a hundred, he scored 5 half centuries, 3 more than Ajinkya Rahane (except that Rahane scored a hundred in Melbourne).

But Kohli’s form isn’t the main concern. Pace bowlers are exploiting his need to go fishing outside the off stump as they have done throughout his career. He stands outside his crease to counter any movement off the pitch. But there is another issue.


This is Kohli facing Woakes in England. Off stump and middle stump are visible. Then he goes back and across.


 This is Kohli after his back and across movement facing Robinson.

Now he is covering all of his stumps. In such a scenario, the nip backer becomes a dangerous ball because the bat comes down at an angle when he tries to play the flick. Sometimes he tends to turn the bat early while playing the flick which means he can nick it behind like he did against Robinson in England or play across the line of the ball and miss it with his head falling over like he did against Southee and Grandhomme in New Zealand. Because of this guard, he also misses out on scoring opportunities on the off side and he is a player that likes to take a giant stride and doesn’t play back foot shots, which means he can be tied down.

 Kohli getting out LBW to Southee with his head falling over.

Kohli’s technique of standing on the off stump is a modern one. Nasser Hussain, Mark Butcher and Michael Atherton have done an episode about the LBW problems faced by batters in English county cricket (available on Sky cricket’s Youtube channel) because of the modern technique of batsmen standing on off stump.

Interesting questions were even asked as to why Rahane’s and Pujara’s positions in the team were under scrutiny while Kohli’s wasn’t. The fact is before this weird phase, Kohli was making a lot of runs consistently. More runs than Rahane and Pujara.

From 2016 to 2019, his returns were significantly more than Rahane and Pujara. In this period, he made 4,208 runs while Pujara made 3,320 runs, from 43 innings each and Rahane with 2,493 runs from 41 innings. 888 runs more than Pujara and 1,715 runs more than Rahane. While Pujara has battted at No.3 which is tough because it means he basically opens most of the time, Rahane has batted at no. 5 after Kohli.

Even his country wise and overall stats fair better than those of Rahane and Pujara:

Country

Kohli

Rahane

Pujara

Highest average

Innings played

Average

Innings played

Average

Innings played

Average

Australia

25

54.08

23

42.10

21

47.29

Kohli

England and Wales

29

34.55

29

26.04

28

28.85

Kohli

India

68

62.77

50

35.74

74

54.40

Kohli

New Zealand

8

36.00

7

36.14

8

20.00

Rahane

South Africa

10

55.80

6

53.20

13

31.62

Kohli

Sri Lanka

10

43.78

10

45.22

6

90.80

Pujara

West Indies

13

35.62

8

102.80

6

20.33

Rahane

Overall

164

50.66

134

39.30

156

44.82

Kohli

 

Kohli has been India’s best batter and before 2020 he was scoring a mountain of runs. In Kohli’s case it has been more of a stop start phase rather than a bad one in conditions that have been challenging.

In ODIs however, he has been churning out the runs, not quite in the Kohli beast mode but still averaging 46.66 with 560 runs from 12 matches at a healthy strike rate of 89. He was the 3rd highest run getter after KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan. In T20Is he had a very good 2020 averaging 36.88 with a strike rate of 141 and then the series vs England in 2021 where he averaged 74 at Strike Rate of 132.89. The concern for Kohli in T20 cricket has been his batting against spinners in the middle overs, which did come to bite him in the world cup games vs Pakistan where he couldn’t accelerate during this period and vs New Zealand where he scored 9(17).

As for his sacking from ODI captaincy, the selectors citied lack of trophies in the cabinet as a reason. While there were issues of selection with India not having a settled no. 4 by the time the world cup came along, India did make it to the Champions trophy final in 2017 and also the semifinal of World cup 2019. Those were just two ODI tournaments that he captained in. Post the ODI world cup, Kohli tried to rectify his mistakes by backing Iyer and Rahul in the middle order.

Of course selectors have been guilty often of mixing formats. T20s are not the same as ODIs. Yet both are clubbed together as “white ball format”. Since Virat assumed full time captaincy in 2017, India has won 51 (and a tie and 2 no results) out of the 78 matches played, under him.

However, after board’s citation of no major trophy success, Kohli said he has accepted this reason for his removal, which is a very professional thing to do. We know this because Kohli told us in a press conference while BCCI announced one of the most important changes in Indian cricket on twitter, and not through a press conference. And now they will probably try to do damage control as they have done before. BCCI being reactive and not pro-active is definitely not a good sign for Indian cricket.

India has the South Africa tour to focus on, a place where they have never won a test series before. After the series win in Australia and 2-1 lead in England (series is yet to be completed), this team has a chance of scripting history. And that will be the milestone to remember.

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