Kohli v Anderson: The Clash of the Titans
The blockbuster English summer is looming around the corner as a resolute Indian team and the relentless English team lock horns in the five-match Test series. The fact that the highly-awaited series kicks off with England’s 1000th Test match makes the occasion all but momentous. The two sides are lidded with celebrated goliaths of International Cricket and their potential clashes gives this series the exhilarating touch that it so genuinely deserves. Amongst the hearsay, grapevines and the newly-emerging talks of the town, something that’s keeping the enthrallment intact is the face-off between Virat Kohli and James Anderson: an age-old rivalry that is reaching its crowning point and, possibly, its twilight, too.
Virat Kohli, the glorified lad of the Indian soil, has turned up to England this year, all guns blazing. Befittingly established as one of the finest batsmen of the modern age, Kohli has notched up a plethora of runs in the limited-overs chunk of this tour and almost led India to two consecutive series victories before the upcoming Tests, against the hosts.
Known for his belligerent and hot-tempered approach, the Indian star has a phenomenal away record in Tests. Of his 21 Test tons, 11 have come outside the spin-friendly, red-carpeted tracks of India. The hoax in this, though, is that he is yet to register a Test century in England: a country where he averages a hideous 13.4 in the five games he has played, so far.
Anderson, England’s most prolific wicket-taker in the longest format of the game, was in ominous form back then, too. He had the ball to talk and plucked out crucial scalps in the moments that mattered. Anderson was one of England’s stalwarts who led them to a convincing 3-1 triumph in that Test series. The highlight for him was the ease with which he exploited India’s best batsman, Kohli’s frailties outside off that accounted for four extremely resembling dismissals.
India’s tour of England back in 2014 was nothing short of a nightmare for a Virat Kohli who had surfaced as the newest sensation of the game and was briskly mounting the ladder to ultimate sublimity. He was methodically worked over by James Anderson throughout the series and fell to him four times. Kohli returned modest numbers of 134 runs in the 10 innings that he featured: unarguably the most dreadful outing in his, otherwise, extremely illustrious career.
From then onward, the two titans of International Cricket have lingered forward to stamp their marks and hit the jackpots. In the succeeding tour of England to India in 2016, Kohli demolished the English bowlers to have his vengeance. His 235 at Mumbai’s Wankhede pretty much sealed it as India whitewashed England in what turned out to be an appalling tour for the visitors. Anderson returned ordinary figures of merely 4 Test wickets in the three matches he featured in and was unable to bother the Indian batsmen with his fourth-stump guile and off-the-wicket movement.
All these numbers suggest that Virat Kohli has totally evolved from his 2014’s silhouette. Since that horrendous tour, the 29-year old has matured a lot and captaining the national side has done his game a world of good, too. Returning back to the hostile lands with spiteful pitches, Kohli will be dogged to turn the tables and prove to the world that away-swingers and outside-off liners are no age-old nemeses. The genre and the technique might not be tinkered with, though. With the current purple patch Kohli is in, you expect to see gorgeous cover drives, sumptuous leg-side flicks and the unfaltering focus rather than nudging at the away-seamers and losing the plot.
Expect Anderson to be equal to the task, too. With an English record of 540 Test wickets under his belt, he has all the chicanery and craftiness that a bowler needs: stuff of artistry, bearing comparison with any swing bowler in any era. He has 60 wickets in 12 Tests against India and whatever the maturity level Kohli has achieved, Anderson will be quite a tough nut to crack given his experience in home conditions.
With battles of such caliber under the spotlight, there is always a bit of room of stirring a buzz and hurling a controversial sledge. In the build-up to this highly anticipated series, Anderson couldn’t help but remind Kohli that his runs matter the world to his team’s success, trashing Kohli’s earlier statement that his individual performances won’t matter as long as India stay on the winning track. Such strategies of getting into the opponents’ heads might be stuff from the past with the likes of Glenn McGrath infamously renowned of employing such plots. But, scandalous or not, they seem to work and work well.
It’s the masterclass, the prowess and the passion these two carry that adds fascination to this evenly matched duel. It’s their unparalleled skill and unprecedented game knowledge that gives this affair a totally other-worldly feel. It’s the kind of encounters that Cricket fans cherish for decades. It commences in three days’ time when England take on India at one of their most favored hunting grounds, Edgbaston.