Dissecting the sobering defeat in Pune will lead to an obvious question --- have India been over-reliant on Virat Kohli? Are we regressing to that era when India’s hopes used to be tied only to Sachin Tendulkar? Despite Kohli’s growing status as one of the best chase masters of the game, it’s still an exaggerated comparison. (PUNE TEST DAY 3 HIGHLIGHTS)
Tendulkar averages 46.81 and 36.93 in the third and fourth innings across the 200 Tests he played. Kohli, who has played 55 Tests, averages 27.62 and 61.41 respectively. Factor in the superior bowling attacks Tendulkar faced over 24 years and his averages instantly look better than what the numbers show.
Kohli’s four double tons in a row
Virat Kohli is an icon in his own right though. Till Pune happened, Kohli had scored four double centuries in four successive series, all as captain. Maybe even Kohli couldn’t believe the way he got out on Saturday --- misreading the line to leave a delivery on a turning pitch and have his off-stump pegged back.
BOWLED HIM! Kohli shoulders arms and SOK has gone straight through him! Wowee.... India skipper gone for 13. Hosts now 3-47 #INDvAUS— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) February 25, 2017
But the law of averages had to catch up with him at some point, although it did in an ugly fashion. Unfortunately for India, it came in Pune where they desperately needed him to fire.
Tendulkar’s solo run
Point is, no one person can deliver India victory in a team game. Tendulkar couldn’t carry India over the finishing line many times. Remember the 1999 Chennai Test against Pakistan? Tendulkar’s back almost collapsed while scoring a century in sapping humidity but he consistently looked the only man motivated to go the distance. All he needed was a partner willing to put a prize on his wicket.
Cut to Chennai in 2008, against England. Set 387 to win, India waltzed to the target with six wickets to spare. Here too, Tendulkar scored an unbeaten century. But the difference between the two outcomes was the support given by other batsmen.
In 2008, Virender Sehwag set up the game nicely with a blinding 68-ball 83 while Gautam Gambhir played the anchoring role well with a 139-ball 66. Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman fell cheaply but with Yuvraj Singh clubbing his way to a quick 85 not out, Tendulkar was allowed to play the anchor’s role at his pace.
Compliment Kohli under pressure
Kohli, clearly the anchor of this team, is probably seeking that dynamism from his batsmen when they are posed a serious challenge. And it needs to start from the top. India have recently settled for KL Rahul as the opening partner of Murali Vijay after giving Shikhar Dhawan a long run and dabbling with Gambhir for a few matches. Rahul is an aggressive batsman but was probably undone by a shoulder injury during his first innings.
Vijay not taking the lead
That should have been the cue for Vijay to take the attack to Australia in the second innings, instead of allowing pressure to mount. A slow and wary start to the chase of 441 plays straight into the hands of the bowling team. It has to be a mix of caution and aggression, attacking batting interspersed with bouts of consolidation.
But with that mix missing, India cut a sorry figure without Kohli’s contribution. Add to that the growing inability to adapt to turning pitches at home, and India have more important issues to address than the one instance where Kohli proved human and not a run machine.