The town square in Nottingham bustles with life on chilly weekend nights. It’s in sharp contrast to the spooky walkways leading to it with trees running into dark, threatening skies and the eerie Nottingham castle close by. The English weather, as the cliche goes, is perfect with autumn approaching.
However, this can’t always lift the spirits, especially when you are struggling to live up to your top billing like Virat Kohli is. The India batting mainstay — and you are beginning to say this with gritted teeth — had a Tendulkaresque reputation arriving in this country but has run into a drought of even half-centuries. On Friday night, on the eve of the third ODI here, Virat was with his longtime mate, the other struggling batsman, Shikhar Dhawan, at Marrakesh, a lively restaurant at town square. But as he walked out of the place, he still had the grumpy look that defines him.
Don’t know if he missed his favourite Japanese food (self-imposed for its health benefits), but the angry young man image is getting attached to him more prominently. He sports the stern look everywhere, in the nets, while travelling etc. It has been learnt through people in the know that all the talk on his personal relationship, and wild speculation over its effect on performance, isn’t doing any good.
The big burst of emotion he is known to give into regularly came in the third ODI. After compiling a 40 that comprised some good shots, Kohli holed out to mid-on. He sank to the pitch in disbelief. Harsh words were exchanged with the opponents. Here was a chance to get his first international fifty on the tour and he had squandered it. Though India were on course, the disappointment showed.
MS Dhoni somewhat saved the day for him, calling it a good knock on a wicket difficult to bat on. “Virat batted very well. The wicket was slow and it was very tough to rotate. He has got runs and scored runs that are good. Hope he makes a good impact. Hopefully he will do well in the coming 2-3 matches,” Dhoni said.
Before India’s foreign run began in South Africa late last year, some former stalwarts led by Dilip Vengsarkar wanted Rohit Sharma to be pushed to No. 4, calling him technically better. Virat banished the criticism in South Africa and New Zealand, becoming and behaving like a senior statesman. That was until England happened. Many experts have talked about his technique. He had an open stance in Tests and hence had no idea of the off-stump, which he corrected later, standing more side-on to get to read the line better.
On Saturday, he was getting enough time on a flat wicket that afforded no sustained swing. So, when it was cut short, it was opportunity wasted.