India's Virat Kohli(REUTERS)
India's Virat Kohli(REUTERS)

Virat Kohli inside and outside

Here was a person – a captain and a batsman answering multiple questions on why he and his side failed. He was smiling, he was defiant, he was prudent and he was specific.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Manish K Pathak
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2020 05:10 PM IST

Virat Kohli is a proud man, he seldom simply walks out on to a cricket field – it is a march, an announcement with each footstep, an upheaval of sorts, he leads his men out for a battle and does not want to conceal any intent at all. And thus, when there is a stumble and he fumbles around, he wants to ‘shut off from the external noise’, he wants to be the leader and get his team tightly knit in a cocoon which has no place for any outside influence. For Kohli is proud and with pride comes a certain amount of deceiving, not to the world, but to the person himself. Even when he floats around and confronts questions with a swagger, there are voices jabbing away reminding him that something is out of tune.

“I know the (perception) outside changes with one inning,” he was flat out about his own assessment of his batting. He kept thundering and said: “If I thought like people on the outside, I would probably be on the outside right now.”

Here was a batsman trying to block any headlines, here was also a batsman making headlines – not with his words, but with his scores – 9 innings, one 50 across all formats on this tour.

Immediately after this, the batsman stepped back, the captain marched forward: “But we are a side that has never really paid attention to the outside noise and we will continue to do that.”

He kept on adding: “If we had been listening to things from outside, we would have been back at No. 7 or 8 again. It doesn’t matter to us what people outside are saying.”

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For a bloke who never ceases to speak about the worth of Test cricket and for a bloke who loves the way Kane Williamson leads New Zealand, Kohli seemed to be worried. His form has not been entirely good on this tour, the body language looked shrouded, his bowlers were comprehensively out-bowled and the batting contingent caved in twice in two innings.

India's Virat Kohli walks off dejected after losing his wicket (REUTERS)
India's Virat Kohli walks off dejected after losing his wicket (REUTERS)

The captain was acting as the shield, he was protecting his side from the harsh world outside when all people were doing was posing questions. Let’s jog our memory to the first innings – Kyle Jamieson sauntered in, he banged the ball in short, angled it into Kohli’s body and pushed him back. Williamson had left the cover region open, Jamieson followed it up with a length ball outside the off stump. Kohli, who has the biggest front food stride while creaming the ball through covers, flayed at it, nicked it to Taylor and trudged back off.

There were ‘external voices’ echoing in his years, 2014, England, James Anderson and all that. He tucked his bat under his arms and dragged himself off.

Take 2: Jamieson, Southee and Boult started banging the ball in short, Mayank ducked weaved and swayed out of the way. Kohli did the same after a jittery start and then attempted to hook one to get some life into the innings. He edged it to BJ Watling.

Bat tucked under his arms, head bowed, he walked off!

He seldom speaks about personal milestones and often harps on the collective goals. This attempted hook shot was his way of changing the course of the match, to wrest back the momentum away from New Zealand. He failed, but he will stand up again and give it a go, all over again!

“[If] six-seven people can think like that, for sure two-three people will come good,” he said after the match. This was a captain asking his players to shut the external noise but come out with a more positive attitude.

“I’m absolutely fine,” he said. “I am batting really well. I feel that sometimes scores don’t reflect the way you are batting and that’s what can happen when you don’t execute what you want to well. Look, when you play so much cricket and you play for so long, obviously you’ll have three-four innings that don’t go your way. If you try and make too much out of it, it’ll keep piling on,” he said.

Here was a person – a captain and a batsman answering multiple questions on why he and his side failed. He was smiling, he was defiant, he was prudent and he was specific.

“It doesn’t matter what I do. It’s never been about my performance on tour or about how many runs I score. It’s all about if the team wins, even a 40 is good. If the team loses, then even a hundred is irrelevant for me and I’m going to stay in that mindset.”

In Christchurch, however, what Kohli does and how he does it will matter to the Indian side. Perhaps a 40 might not be enough, perhaps, that positive stride, that announcement with each step might not be good if the attempted cover drive sees the ball ending in the cordon instead of racing through the field and smashing the boundary hoardings.

It is all about Kohli when India take the field, it will be all about Kohli when India try to forge a comeback in Christchurch and whether he likes it or not, the ‘external voices’ will keep surrounding him and his side. His side can decide the tone, his side can decide the pace, the captain can lead the way.

Not that it does appear to matter to Kohli but well, Steve Smith has toppled him to become the number 1 Test batsman in the world.

Let’s roll on to Christchurch!

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