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Virat Kohli fires ominous warning shot ahead of pink-ball Test

Virat Kohli was back among the runs
Virat Kohli was back among the runs
EXPERT COLUMNIST
Modified 15 Feb 2021
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19th December, 2020, India are absolutely reeling at 19/5 when Virat Kohli, much like his teammates, has an uncharacteristic waft at a delivery outside off stump. Inevitably, he gets a thick outside edge that is snaffled up expertly by Cameron Green – a dismissal that was the death knell for India’s lowest ever Test score.

Post that, as advertised before, Virat Kohli returned to India, awaiting the birth of his first child. Subsequently, even though the Indian skipper was on the verge of perhaps the most cherished moment in his life, he might’ve just contemplated how his nation would fare Down Under. Not just because he was the captain, but also because he was their best batsman.

Fortunately for India, though, things materialized a lot better than plenty had envisioned, meaning that despite Virat Kohli’s absence, the Men In Blue scripted a historic series triumph.

Consequently, the rubber against England then represented an opportunity for Virat Kohli and the Indians to strengthen their credentials for the ICC World Test Championship final. And, while a lot had been made about Virat Kohli being handed back the reins, despite Ajinkya Rahane’s exemplary leadership, one couldn’t deride the fact that India were welcoming their best batsman back into the fold.

Also Read: Is Ajnikya Rahane slowly becoming a liablity in home Tests?

Hence, when Virat Kohli fell cheaply in the first innings of the 1st Test, there was a significant amount of chatter. In fact, some even hinted that that dismissal was an impending sign of doom – a decline, as people suggested, the cricketing fraternity had become oblivious to, due to what Virat Kohli had achieved prior.

Though the Indian skipper bagged a classy 72 in the second innings of the 1st Test against England, the defeat coupled with a duck in the first essay of the 2nd game, meant that those clamours reached deafening proportions. Or, at least, as deafening as they have ever been.

Virat Kohli has not scored as freely recentl
Virat Kohli has not scored as freely recentl

So, when Virat Kohli strode out at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on the 15th of February, 2021, there were palpable murmurs regarding his ability to keep racking up tall scores. In blunter terms, with him looking lackadaisical recently, India were even touted to collapse and allow England an avenue back into the match.

Yet, nothing of the sort transpired and over the next few hours, Virat Kohli, despite not notching up three figures, showcased the artistry, the dexterity and of course, the grit that has become synonymous with his batting.

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In the first innings of the 2nd Test, Virat Kohli looked visibly twitchy at the start of his knock. Subsequently, he kept fishing at deliveries he ought to have defended and unsurprisingly, it led to his downfall.

Moeen Ali dismissed Virat Kohli for a duck in the 1st innings
Moeen Ali dismissed Virat Kohli for a duck in the 1st innings

When Moeen Ali tossed one up well outside off stump, Virat Kohli couldn’t resist the temptation to impose himself on the encounter. However, he could not get to the pitch of the ball, meaning that he left an enormous gap between bat and pad – a caveat that was gleefully exploited by the turning delivery.

In the second innings though, Virat Kohli looked a lot more composed and seemed to trust his defence – elements that perhaps defined his knock. Additionally, he made a slight technical tweak, wherein he began standing on off stump – something that allowed him to get closer to the ball and negate any potential gap between the bat and pad.

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Against Jack Leach though, Virat Kohli was content to stand on leg stump and use his hands to play with the turn, rather than getting committed across his stumps, where he would have had to play across the line quite often. Unsurprisingly, the Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper barely flinched, even as the ball spun viciously.

Throughout his innings, he looked comfortable defending and seemed to portray the solid foundations that were required on such a tricky track. For the entire duration, he exuded conviction in his footwork, either going deep into his crease or stretching forward, whenever the situation demanded.

To put things into perspective, over the past few games, there have been signs that Virat Kohli has perhaps been a tad impatient or in blunter terms, a touch over-eager to assert his dominance – something that has undermined the sound technique he possesses.

Virat Kohli has not scored a Test ton since November 2019

To put things into context, Virat Kohli, prior to the 2nd innings, had endured a barren run, at least by his standards. Since 2020, Virat Kohli had averaged 22.11, making 199 runs across 9 innings. During that phase, the Indian skipper had not scored a hundred too, with his last ton coming against Bangladesh in November 2019.

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More worryingly though, Virat Kohli has now gone 10 innings without a Test century – again, something that is acceptable for any other player. Yet, Virat Kohli isn’t any other player, simply put. To further emphasize the point, the last time the batsman endured a longer spell without a hundred was back in 2014, when James Anderson worked him over on that tour to England.

Thus, for a cricketer of Virat Kohli’s ilk, who always likes to dominate and lead from the front, there was significant reason for him to feel a shade edgy.

Virat Kohli was back to his best against England at Chennai
Virat Kohli was back to his best against England at Chennai

In the second innings at Chennai however, there was considerable evidence that Virat Kohli was willing to bide his time, get himself attuned to the conditions before unfurling crushing and decisive blows. Though one knock might be a short sample space, it indicated that Virat Kohli had indeed turned a corner.

Most tellingly, it signalled that the Indian captain was confident enough to tide over any potential storms. In clearer terms, it implied that Virat Kohli was ready for the long haul – something that might be music to Indian ears and equally cacophonous for England.

Incidentally, the last time Virat Kohli breached the 100-run barrier in Test cricket, was during a Day-Night fixture against Bangladesh in November 2019. And, for the uninitiated, India’s next encounter is also a pink-ball contest, which begins on the 24th of February.

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Thus, as far as narratives are concerned, it perhaps seems written in the stars that Virat Kohli will get back into his hundred-scoring habits, in an environment where he lost it, albeit by just a sliver.

Promisingly, there is also enough cricketing logic to suggest that Virat Kohli could quickly morph into the all-conquering batsman that he has been for a large chunk of his career – one that amasses centuries for fun and of course, leads from the front.

So far in the series, England might’ve been quietly happy that they’d kept the Indian skipper tied down. Yet, it now seems a matter of when, rather than if, with regards to a substantial Virat Kohli masterclass.

If that were to happen, it would take his tally of remarkable knocks in the series to two, for those who watched the second essay at Chennai would certainly testify.

Back when India succumbed to their lowest ebb at Adelaide, Virat Kohli would’ve been ruing the non-availability of an opportunity to set things right. Now though, in an equally sparkling series, he has the chance to remind the world that he remains that monarch, as far as batting is concerned.

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After all, form may be temporary but class, especially in Virat Kohli’s case, remains permanent, doesn’t it?

Also Read: Axar Patel awaits potentially ideal Test debut at Chennai

Published 15 Feb 2021, 19:55 IST
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