Virat Kohli entertains fans the world over with effulgence in Bengaluru bash at IPL 2024

Virat Kohli. Source: IPL

What could be the major talking points about a typical Virat Kohli innings? One would be eye-catching shots. There is also something else to look out for: The cut-and-thrust activity before he takes strike. 

The way he sprints to the crease. The bat moving to-and-fro from one side to another. Perhaps, a bit of shadow practice — perfecting the alignment, like head position and front shoulder. The subsequent trigger movement, albeit a little less these days, followed by the deafening noise of the crowd after playing a stroke, are all part of a familiar Kohli-batting-manual. To sum it up, Kohli’s batting is about vigour and vitality associated with his game. 

In slightly tricky conditions for batting at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, the Kohli-viewing-experience was in full flow: Trademark whips, drives or the way he skipped down the deck to pace bowlers. On expected lines, Punjab Kings’ fielders were put under pressure as he pinched twos from right under their noses.

That is, in brief, about Kohli the batter. But a typical Kohli experience also extends to certain on-field verbal exchanges with players from the opposition. It could also be about his press conferences. Eons ago, in 2011-12, there were lingering doubts about Kohli’s place in the Test side. He had responded with a gutsy 44 versus Australia at the WACA. 

In the following press conference, Kohli had noted, “I don’t know why people were after me even after the first game. I had scored two fifties before that in the match versus West Indies [in Mumbai], and suddenly I was on the verge of being dropped after one match.

“Scoring eight hundreds in one-day internationals can’t be a fluke. It’s international cricket as well. I don’t know why people have been questioning my technique or temperament so much. I have been playing at No. 3 in one-dayers, and I have not gone in to bat in very good situations in all of the 70 [odd] matches I have played. All of this is a learning curve for me. I am playing on difficult wickets in Australia.”

Since then, Kohli has achieved almost everything as a cricketer. He has broken multiple records, accumulated loads of runs across formats and frontiers. He has virtually become the face of world cricket. Yet, as every athlete gets older, there would be whispers going around about his or her future in the game. It could be a small mistake, or a poor run of form, and the age factor would be invariably brought up. 

In Kohli’s case, it is no different. In the recent past, there has been speculation that the BCCI top brass was looking beyond Kohli for the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup. After the PBKS-RCB game in the IPL, Kohli quipped: “I know my name is now attached to just promoting the game in different parts of the world when it comes to T20 cricket. But I’ve still got it I guess.”

A few things generally held against Kohli are that his style of batting is ‘dated’ for T20 cricket. On the slower wickets in the Caribbean, his game might come under scrutiny while playing spinners who take the ball away from the right-hander. He answered a couple of those question marks in front of passionate Royal Challengers Bengaluru fans.

After being dropped on zero, Virat essayed a volley of shots off Sam Curran and Arshdeep Singh. At the completion of the fourth over itself, Kohli had raced to 33 off 15 deliveries. There is a T20 maxim that says   ‘Kill the Chase in PowerPlay itself’ by scoring as many runs as possible. Kohli had certainly laid the foundation. He still had some work to do, finding a way against the spin pair of Harpreet Brar and Rahul Chahar.

Kohli had a plan in mind and executed it. In the ninth over, he manufactured room after taking a leg-stump guard to bring out a wristy drive off Chahar. The ball banged into the billboards as it raced all the way. Chahar didn’t bowl another over in that game. Harpreet’s stump-to-stump line and the little bit of bounce he was extracting from a high release point was more of a challenge.

Although, in Kohli’s defence, the rest of the RCB batting unit, too, found it difficult while playing Harpreet. When Kohli was eventually dismissed, he had scored 77 off just 49 deliveries. Kohli’s control percentage (64 %) was low, but by taking the aggressive route, he was able to maintain a very healthy strike rate.

So, should Kohli be a part of the set-up for the T20 World Cup? There is a school of thought and perhaps rightly so that India should trust youngsters for the tournament. Incidentally, India’s solitary T20 World Cup triumph in 2007 came on the back of selecting a group of relatively inexperienced players. Having said that, India have confirmed Rohit Sharma, Kohli’s long-time teammate, as skipper for the World Cup. 

In that context, it is rather unfair to single out Kohli. After all, he has enough game-breaking performances to his credit in T20 World Cups. He also has the ability to soak pressure like a sponge while chasing targets and find the right gears for different situations. And as he showed on a balmy night at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, he still has the required credentials for the shortest format.

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