Blockbuster viewing or a liability? What is Virat Kohli to Team India?

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Published on 11 Jul 2022 11:56 pm (UK Time)

Virat Kohli, arguably the greatest batsman across formats that this generation has seen and a true icon in all ways. Very few cricketers have an aura similar to that of Virat Kohli, someone who always has the cameras pinned to him even when he is not batting, taking wickets or taking catches. It’s not long since we thought there was no record that this man could not break, and here we are in 2022, seeing him in what could out turn out to be a scraping for his place in this year’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australia.

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There is no argument that Virat Kohli has inspired a generation of cricketers who will look up to him and try to match his unrealistic standards on and off the pitch. Any player who does well, irrespective of the format, is always compared to Virat Kohli, which explains much about what he has achieved. A batting average of almost 50+ across three formats (49.53 in tests), 10000+ runs in ODIs, 6000+ runs in Tests, and 70 international centuries is no mean feat. Besides Mathew Hayden and Ricky Pointing, Virat Kohli is the only batter who was ranked world number one in all three formats of the game. Given that Hayden played only nine T20Is and Pointing played a mere 17, and with little competition around when a relatively new format came into existence, it is fair to say nobody in the world of cricket has dominated all three forms like the former Indian skipper Virat Kohli.

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Kohli is the only Indian captain to win four tests away from home in a calendar year, and he did it twice in 2018 and 2021. Seeing the current Indian test side going abroad and dominating teams, a lot of credit for it has to go to this man. From maintaining unreal fitness levels to producing never heard of consistency, for a long time of the journey, it felt this was Virat Kohli’s world, and we were just living in it.

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Kohli is never far from the action, and as an outsider, you will be bemused to see the cameras always panned on him despite him neither bowling nor taking catches in the outfield. But there he is, landing vicious air punches celebrating wickets, roaring up the crowd or sledging opponents; he is always on the field highly motivated, wearing his heart on his sleeve. In an interview in 2018, Kohli said: “My motivation is just about winning. The day I will lose my passion, I will stop playing. I will never drag myself for more than what my body can take. The day I’m standing on the field thinking, why am I doing this? And I no longer have that passion or energy for winning. I just won’t be able to play.”

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However, things have gone downhill for Kohli for almost a couple of years now, and unfortunately, there are no stats compiled for opponents sledged or wickets celebrated, it’s the runs that count, and Virat Kohli has not been among the runs off lately more than ever. Kohli last scored a century in November 2019, and with a batting average of 20.25 in T20Is, 23.66 in ODIs and 31.42 in Tests this year is shocking by any standards. Every time Kohli goes out to bat, there is an anticipation of him finally getting to that magic three-figure mark, but he has failed to convert any of his starts for almost three years, which also saw a COVID-induced break in cricket.

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Virat Kohli failed to deliver in the final test match of the series against England. He was rested in the first T20I against the same opposition before walking back into the team for the remainder of the series. His poor run of form extended in the two T20Is he played, where he managed scores of 1 & 11. Meanwhile, Deepak Hooda is making a name for himself and a case for Virat Kohli’s number three position. The Lucknow Super Giants batter has impressed immensely with a batting average of 68.33 and a staggering strike rate of 172.26 in the six matches he has played. There is no disagreement that Kohli has done enough to walk back into the team whenever he is rested, but the question remains for how long?

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Despite a run of low scores, I cannot recollect any player given such a long rope. Even former test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane and batter Cheteshwar Pujara were dropped from the test team over poor performances though the latter made a quick comeback after his stint with Sussex County Cricket Club, where he piled on 720 runs in five matches at an average of 120. There is news around Virat Kohli’s availability for the five-match T20 series against the West Indies, and it is rumoured that Kohli has asked to be rested for the T20 games. This is India’s penultimate series before India begins their campaign in the T20 World Cup, and if Deepak Hooda continues his exploits with the bat, Kohli will be desperate for runs in the Asia Cup starting in late August, or it will be hard for him to warrant a place in the starting XI without being the captain of the side. 

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But for someone who plays all three formats, it is next to impossible to be fit and ready to go due to the number of fixtures that teams play. The International Cricket Council and especially the Board of Control for Cricket in India have made a mockery of international cricket and cricketers who are made to play a ridiculous number of games. India and England finished the test match on July 5 and then competed in a 3 three-match T20 series which was played on the 7th, 9th, and 10th of this month before starting a three-match ODI series beginning from July 12. It is ridiculous that international teams are made to play on back-to-back days, risking the chances of injury to any player competing at this level.

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Like always, Virat Kohli will once again make headlines in the news, where he is either dropped from the team or shuts up his critics like he always has done. It will be fascinating to watch how things pan out for perhaps the greatest modern-day batsman, Virat Kohli.

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