Virat Kohli vs James Anderson: An epic clash of two champions
The world of cricket has seen plenty of rivalries and healthy competition between batsmen and bowlers. From Sachin Tendulkar vs Shane Warne to Kevin Peterson vs Mitchell Johnson, there have been quite a few thrilling rivalries of merit. Some stir controversies and some restore cricketing spirit but either way, these dissensions reflect how competitive and challenging cricket can be. And that's interesting, isn't it?
If you are kind enough to lend me your ears, I submit to you that I am all for healthy odds on a cricket ground. It is not something new for any cricketer who plays at the international level. A player faces a lot of sledging and tough challenges that eventually mould him/her into a fine cricketer. Cricket is all about how strong a player mentally is. As long as friction between two players lies within a ground, it's pure gold- for cricket, for the players involved and for the fans.
In the modern-day cricket, there have been some rivalries that have turned a lot of heads. Take for instance the competition between James Anderson and Virat Kohli. They have locked horns on a cricket ground on a number of occasions and with upcoming India's tour of England, the clash of skills is back on. Let us take a look at how this clash started and how it generated a lot of buzz over the years.
England's tour of India, 2012-13
It started way back in 2012 when the English squad visited India to play all the three formats. In the series of 4 Test matches, England defeated India by 2-1.
In an attempt to validate his inclusion in the Test squad, Virat Kohli failed to capitalize on the opportunities he had. He struggled with the blade in the first 3 Tests. To his credit, he stamped a hard-fought century in the 4th Test match. Even in this inning, he seemed comfortable at the crease as he got beat by bowling variations on several occasions. His batting figures in this test series were 19, 14*, 19, 7, 6, 20 and 103. Anderson was a part of the test squad only.
India's tour of England, 2014
Things turned ugly for India when the team toured England in 2014. This was perhaps the worst point of Virat's career as he struggled a lot to keep up with the harsh English conditions. In a series of 5 Test matches, India lost by 3-1. James Anderson, as we know how dangerous he can be with the ball, troubled Virat the entire series and managed to dismiss him on 4 different occasions. Anderson decoded Virat's batting technique on the English pitches perfectly. He moved the ball away from him as well as towards him very beautifully.
He got Virat's number and put on a clinic of fast bowling. He sent Virat packing by getting him either caught behind the stumps or at the slips, the good old-fashioned pacer way. Virat's batting figures were 1, 8, 25, 0, 39, 28, 0, 7, 6 and 20 in ten innings and he averaged only 13.5.
In the following ODI series of 5 games, India defeated England by 3-1 (1st ODI was abandoned due to rain). Virat still continued to struggle and he registered 0, 40, 1* and 13 runs in 4 matches. His only shining moment in the entire tour happened in a T20 match where he hammered 66 runs. Let us take a look at how James dismissed Kohli on numerous occasions.
England's tour of India, 2016-17
Things turned sour for the guests when the English squad toured India in 2016. The English team was destroyed by the confident Indian team who won by 4-0 in the series of Test matches. This time, the mature Virat Kohli was the architect of India's win. Later on, India also won the T20 and ODI series by 2-1 respectively in both the formats.
Anderson played 3 out of 5 Test matches and every time he bowled, Virat gave him a hard time. This time, Virat won the contest as he smoked the English bowlers north and south. In the 3 matches that Anderson featured in, Virat played 5 innings and his scores were 167, 81, 62, 6* and 235.
What went wrong for Kohli?
After the 2014 series in England, Kohli himself confessed in the interviews that he went wrong with the technique in the English conditions. A lot of experts were of the same opinion. In a desperate attempt to bounce back with the bat, Kohli failed to capitalize on the opportunities.
It was not only Anderson who kept Virat troubled. It was fast bowling in general that Virat faced difficult to comprehend, which is strange considering the fact that he is particularly good against Pacers. Stuart Broad and Liam Plunkett bowled efficiently on their home pitches.
The strategies made by the English squad for Virat was different in distinct sessions of the match. The idea was to utilize the swing offered by the pitches to the fullest. The fast bowlers kept him on the backfoot and then suddenly, a quick inswinger resulted in an lbw. There was a lot of pressure on his shoulders. The constant fan and media backlash added more weights to the already pressure-inflicted shoulders.
Virat Kohli- the Lionheart
Every sportsperson faces a low point in his/her career and a true-spirited sportsperson always fights back to the best of his/her abilities. A passionate cricketer that Virat has always been, what he did to improve was practise and train much harder. Test cricket is the absolute test of a cricketer's merit and he proved his worth in the next tournament against Australia in 2014-15.
In the tough Australian conditions, whilst facing a lot of sledging and controversies, Virat thrived like a true champion under pressure. He started off with a bang by scoring two consecutive centuries (115 and 141) in two innings in the very first match. In the 2nd test at Brisbane, he managed to score only 19 and 1.
Fighting his way through the dangerous Australian bowling line-up that included big names like Mitchell Johnson, Shane Watson, Peter Siddle, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Stark, he regained the momentum and scored 169,54,147 and 46 in the following 4 innings.
Back to the Jimmy- VK clash
James "Jimmy" Anderson deserves all the credit in the world for his brilliant bowling strategies and precision. What he planned for a batting wizard like Virat and how well he executed his plans deserve props to a T. He made Virat juggle between playing on the front foot and on the back foot with impressive bowling variations.
On some occasions, he forced Virat to drive the ball on the front foot and bowled a late inswinger that resulted in a sharp edge off the bat. When Virat picked up the inswinger and full-length deliveries, he bowled a late outswinger that resulted in an edge again. In both the cases, he introduced a significant change of length and pace on the pitch, not allowing Virat to set his eyes on the ball. What a brilliant utilization of the fine English conditions!
Anderson made headlines during England's tour of India in 2016 when he claimed that Virat’s technical glitches weren’t visible because of the "batsman-friendly" Indian tracks that lacked movement and pace. It stirred a lot of buzz in the cricketing world.
Anderson received criticism from legends like Graeme Smith and Inzamam-ul-Haq for his bitter remarks.
The legendary Australian pacer Glenn Mcgrath predicted that James Anderson will be a tough nut to crack for Virat Kohli in the upcoming matches, given that Jimmy has the upper hand in his home conditions and he swings the ball with great balance.
In an effort to set his eyes on the English pitches, Virat opted to play the county cricket and signed with Surrey but was ruled out to play in the English domestic circuit owing to an injury. Regardless, Virat has devoted himself to the nets and has been gearing up for the challenge.
On the other side, Anderson took a six-week break from cricket to ensure that when he faces the Indian team, he will be in the best possible condition both physically and mentally. Without a flick of doubt, the champion bowler has been working hard to get ready for the competition.
Over the course of time, Virat has brushed up his batting technique and skills to a whole new level. He is a much better batsman now and has matured as a cricketer. We have seen a better balance in his batting and well as in his captaincy. He continues to grow as a cricketer and his dedication is very inspiring.
Same goes for Anderson who has worked harder than ever and to this date, continues to grow as a fast bowler. Facing the leading English wicket-taker in his home conditions won't be easy, even for Virat. This is an evenly matched contest and we can't wait to see these two amazing players pour out their mind and skills against each other.