Adaptability puts Virat Kohli among the masters
India’s remarkable turnaround in the Indore Test is once again due to the batting brilliance and discipline of skipper Virat Kohli.cricket Updated: Oct 09, 2016 23:22 IST
Cassandras of Test cricket’s demise may be growing, but demands the format makes even on the finest of players still makes it an absorbing affair.
India skipper Virat Kohli has already become the leader of the pack, and taken on the role of enforcer which Sachin Tendulkar was in the 1990s. However, the first two days of the Indore Test showed greatness is as much sweat, toil and discipline as it is talent and genius.
As he turned things around in this new Test venue, Kohli ticked another box in his evolving career. Though in great form, there was a blip going into the game. He had not scored a century at home since February 2013.
The dry pitches laid out to help India spinners meant batsmen had to work hard. Still, the statistic of Kohli going 17 innings at home without a century had to be addressed.
The pitch was not unplayable, although puffs of dust were coming off it on Sunday evening. The first two Tests pointed to the problem. In Kanpur, a mistimed hook and sweep led to catches in the deep. Kohli had fallen victim to aggression, and confidence in his craft. In Kolkata, in the second Test, he steered a wide ball to point and then got an unplayable delivery which almost squatted, to be trapped leg before.
Down the ages, great players have stood out for how they adapt to conditions as well as specific plans by the opposition. Even the genius of Sachin Tendulkar had to invent new ways to score as bowlers constantly plotted ways to check him. The paddle-sweep, and the double century in Sydney, 2004 without playing a cover drive, were just two examples.
Kohli chose patience, adapting to the slow pitch against New Zealand’s determined pace and spin attack. He played everything along the ground. One rank short ball showed his focus. It could have been dispatched into the stands, but it was a controlled pull along the turf for four. The innings had no six.
Kohli’s five-year Test career has been about surmounting challenges.
He faced his first test on debut in the West Indies in 2011. Fidel Edwards and Ravi Rampaul aimed short deliveries at his ribcage. Already a limited-overs star, he was unnerved.
Dropped for the next tour of England, Kohli was ready for the 2011-12 Australia trip. A 75 in the third Test at Perth was the appetiser for the 116 in the final Test in Adelaide. Kohli had arrived.
His game took a dip again on the 2014 England tour. Found out against swing bowling outside off-stump, the in-your-face man seemed to consume the cricketer-for-all-seasons. Before the tour was out, he began falling outside off-stump even against spin.
With all eyes on him, he responded by scoring a century in both innings as stand-in skipper in the first Test in Adelaide at the yearend, making a statement as batsman and skipper. If the Aussies had taken note of his England travails, Kohli was prepared, though India lost after a remarkable chase in the end.
In Indore, he gave an example of matching temperament with technique. Few would bet against Kohli at least getting a triple ton before India’s 10-Test home season finishes.