IPL: Virat Kohli finds consistency with conventional strokes

  • Kushal Phatarpekar, Hindustan Times, Rajkot
  • Updated: Apr 27, 2016 17:17 IST
Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli plays a shot during the 2016 Indian Premier League (IPL). (AFP Photo)

Twenty20 is a format where consistency invariably goes for a toss. With a prime focus on big hits, batsmen tend to falter more often than not. In India’s Virat Kohli though, world cricket seems to have found a cricketer who seems to have broken this code with his fine run of form.

After earning the man of the series award in the World Twenty20, Kohli has seamlessly transferred his form into the Indian Premier League (IPL). His unbeaten knock of 100 in Royal Challengers Bangalore’s clash against Gujarat Lions came after a spate of 50-plus-run knocks.

In fact, Before Sunday’s knock, Kohli had piled on 11 half centuries in 17 innings this year. His average since January 2016 is a mind-boggling 110, made even more striking by the fact that all this has come in the unpredictable T20 format.

Known more for his stroke-play than big-hitting prowess, Kohli is also changing the demands from a batsman in this format. His knocks seldom see massive sixes. He instead focuses on finding gaps and aims for boundaries. He has managed to cut out the risk of dismissal and has yet managed to keep the runs flowing.

In the last couple of years, T20 cricket has been dominated by only a few batsmen. Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers are a few names that keep cropping up regularly with high-scoring knocks associated with them.

But, even these swashbuckling batsmen have hardly come close to Kohli’s consistency. It can be gauged by their performance in the World T20.

Gayle grabbed headlines for his unbeaten hundred against England in the opening stages of the tournament. He however, didn’t do much after with a spate of single-digit scores.

De Villiers too had a lackluster World T20. His only decent knock (64) came against lowly Afghanistan. Otherwise, the innovative batsman struggled to convert starts into big knock through the tournament. His bat has only started buzzing when the IPL began.

By contrast, Kohli has been at it since India’s tour of Australia. His consistency is even starker if knocks in other formats are also considered. In the one-dayers down under he scored 381 runs in five ODIs. It included two centuries, one half century and a 90-plus score.

He followed it with knocks of 90*, 59* and 50 in three T20Is right after. He took a break during India’s three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka, but returned with the same vigour. He produced another fine performance in the Asia Cup, where he dug India out from tricky situations in quite a few instances that led to their eventual triumph.

In all these knocks, his most eye-catching performances have come in high-stakes games. His knocks in two clashes against Pakistan, later against Australia and then West Indies in the semifinal of the World T20, have only added to the ever-building aura around him. It is a mental state that sportsmen yearn to achieve through their careers. It appears Kohli is in that zone.

While the IPL may not match the Asia Cup and World T20 in terms of pressure, but it is important to note that here Kohli is performing with the added responsibility of captaincy.

The fact augurs well for India, who are set to play a spate of Tests in the year ahead. As captain of the Indian Test team, Kohli is likely to come under a lot of focus in the months to follow. His prowess and consistency with the bat will also draw many expectations from fans who have now become accustomed to a high standard him.

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