Strike-rate 105 and one boundary attempt, Kohli struggling to keep pace?

Virat Kohli. Source: IPL

Ruturaj Gaikwad was standing at mid-wicket and MS Dhoni was setting the field, adjusting the man at point and moving deep third. During the first strategic time-out, the newly-appointed Chennai Super Kings captain went to his predecessor to pick his brain. By that time, Royal Challengers Bengaluru were already looking jittery, hobbling at 63-3 after nine overs in the IPL opener.

Virat Kohli was still at the crease, batting on 11 off 12 balls, opening the innings. But such was the craze for Dhoni at the Chepauk in Chennai, his every move was followed. Kohli’s slow start had somewhat slipped under the radar.

Suddenly, Kohli decided to shift gears. A strong bottom hand sent a length ball from Maheesh Theekshana to deep mid-wicket for a couple followed by a six off a half-tracker from the mystery spinner. That was the 14th ball he faced and it was his first boundary attempt.


The six proved to be an aberration. After a quiet over against Ravindra Jadeja, Kohli departed for a 20-ball 21 (strike-rate 105). Yes, the former RCB captain faced just six deliveries in Powerplay. But after that, should there not have been a little more aggression, with Kohli shunning his preferred batting template? That RCB lost three wickets in quick succession can’t be an excuse. Modern-day T20 cricket is about living and dying by the sword, batting-wise. It no longer offers a role for an anchor.

A tally of 20 balls is a small sample size, especially for a player returning to cricket after a two-month gap. Then again, Rachin Ravindra opened the batting for CSK, faced 15 balls and scored 37 at a strike-rate of 246.66. As for Kohli, this has been his go-to approach in this format. According to an ESPNcricinfo stat, he faced 124 balls of spin in the middle-overs in the last year’s IPL, and his strike-rate was an underwhelming 110. He made just 32 attempts to hit a boundary.

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In the 2024 IPL opener, Kohli made just one boundary attempt in the first 19 balls he faced, which was a shade over five per cent. The second time when he tried to clear the fence, he was caught in the deep, deceived by a slower ball from Mustafizur Rahman. Irrespective of the formats, the 35-year-old likes to play at his own pace. But he will not have that luxury when he plays for the Indian team. Going ahead, the RCB think-tank will have to decide whether they benefit from this dated batting approach either. 

The Indian team for the ICC T20 World Cup will be picked during the IPL. Going beyond Kohli the brand, his batting approach is a reason why he doesn’t become an automatic choice. India no longer play T20 cricket of the 2015-16 vintage. In the last two years, Gujarat Titans showed how playing enforcers top-down in the batting line-up could brilliantly serve a team’s purpose. Titans were the IPL champions in 2022 and lost the 2023 final in the last delivery of the game to CSK.

India, too, have adopted that style, powered by the likes of Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Suryakumar Yadav and Rinku Singh. Even Rohit Sharma has changed his game. Maybe, Kohli, too, will have to follow suit. Else, he will be the odd man out.

Kohli opens the innings for RCB. He will come at No. 3 for India at the T20 World Cup if he gets picked (it’s unlikely that he will be dropped). For someone, who has been so successful, it’s not easy to change the template. But it’s about contributing to the team’s cause and a repackaged Kohli will be a bigger threat to the opponents.

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