Virat and Hughes: a study in contrast

Two batsmen, born just days apart, are now light years adrift in their cricket ambitions. Virat Kohli is a certified international star. Phil Hughes, on the other hand, is relegated to state duties, writes Ian Chappell.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2014 14:13 IST
Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell
Hindustan Times
Virat Kohli,Phil Hughes,Ian Chappell

Two batsmen, born just days apart, are now light years adrift in their cricket ambitions.

Virat Kohli is a certified international star, now occupying Sachin Tendulkar's coveted No 4 spot in the Test side and with all the credentials of a future India captain.

Phil Hughes, on the other hand, is relegated to state duties, having been left out of the touring party for South Africa and dropped from the Australia ODI side. His only consolation is the thought of piling up first-class runs - something he does with monotonous regularity - to soothe his wounds.

A combination photo of Virat Kohli (R) and Phil Hughes of Australia. (AFP Photo)

This is a far cry from where matters stood a few years ago. Both players were born in November 1988 but Hughes matured more quickly.

By the time he'd played four Test innings - prior to his 21st birthday - Hughes had amassed two centuries. Virat didn't play four Test innings until he was nearly 23 and none of those knocks exceeded thirty.

No looking back
Virat's breakthrough came in a Test on the notorious WACA pitch. A difficult strip to handle even for local batsmen, the bouncy pitch was deemed to be a nightmare for India batsmen, but for him it became his field of dreams. He scored 44 and then 75 and he hasn't looked back as an international batsman.

Having coped with the most extreme of conditions, he then scored his initial Test century in the next innings at the picturesque Adelaide Oval. He's accumulated another four since, at venues as disparate as Bangalore and the Bullring in Johannesburg. Adelaide might be the most scenic of his Test century venues but the Wanderers ranks up there with the WACA in importance on a touring batsman's CV.

It was meritorious runs on a lively WACA pitch that gave Virat belief as a Test player. It was his hundred at the Wanderers, against a top-rated attack, that confirmed he was a player of great class. While the WACA was kind to Virat, Lord's has been a disastrous venue for Hughes. He's had two Tests and four innings at the famous ground for a top score of 17, and that's the good news. Following each Lord's fixture, he's been dropped and since the second omission, he hasn't been sighted at the Test level, despite Australia's top order malfunctioning regularly.

Difficult path
Cricket life has been difficult for Hughes. He's been shuffled in the order since his early days as purely an opener but in reality that's his spot. He first caught the eye as a young opener who consistently scored centuries, as he made rapid progress.

However, following yet another setback in his Test career, he decided to revamp his technique. In retrospect, this may have been a mistake, as in making himself a little less vulnerable around off-stump, one of his greatest attributes was diminished.

Previously, Hughes had worried new-ball bowlers, they knew he could be troubled around off-stump but they were also aware that a slight mistake on their part would cost them dearly. Since the alteration to his technique, he's lost that 'fear factor'.

Virat, on the other hand, has remained strong-minded in his approach to batting. His simple approach to batting has stood many a fine player in good stead. In the mind-game battle, Virat has progressed while Hughes has regressed.

Nevertheless, the fate of both players could also be explained by a variance in selection policies. After years of subservience to seniors, India have finally been forced to become more youthful and it's paying dividends.

Virat and Hughes, a case of two batsmen and two philosophies moving in divergent directions.

First Published: Jan 27, 2014 13:58 IST