Virat Kohli was rarely troubled by poor form at the junior level and it went a long way in ensuring his overall development as a cricketer. But now, there is turmoil around him in Indian cricket, and the BCCI’s decision of giving him a rest for the West Indies T20Is has shaken everyone up a little.
With a plethora of speculations surrounding Kohli all across the world, the BCCI on Thursday announced an 18-member squad for the upcoming five-match T20I series in West Indies. There was no mention of the talismanic Indian’s name in there, and with that many have started assuming he is on the edge now. But is this really the case?
Ahead of the squad announcement, multiple news outlets had reported that Kohli asked for a break from the West Indies tour. Although the BCCI traditionally mentions these players’ decisions while revealing the squads, the board surprisingly did not do the same this time.
Nevertheless, the BCCI did not write anything about Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal – two other notable absentees from the West Indies tour – either in the release. Thus, let us not fall into the trap of any false assumptions.
Despite the fact that his last hundred came way back in November 2019, Kohli, more often than not, brought poetry into motion with his audacious stroke plays in any cricket stadium until IPL 2022 kicked off. This year in the lucrative cash-rich league, he surprisingly failed to win the hearts of his ardent fans, aggregating a meagre 341 runs with a strike rate under 116 (fourth worst after IPL 2008, IPL 2009, IPL 2012) and an average of 22.73 (third worst after IPL 2008 and IPL 2009).
There will always be ups and downs in a cricketer’s form but a player's quality will never fade away. We should always keep this in mind that there is a quality in certain players and we as a team back that quality. When someone is scoring consistently for so long, we can’t overlook his contribution if he is not scoring in one or two series or in one or two years. We know the importance of Virat Kohli. The experts have got all the right to talk about it but for us these things don’t matter."
Rohit Sharma on Virat Kohli (after England T20Is)
Adding to that, Deepak Hooda’s elevation to an excellent No. 3 with Lucknow Super Giants, and his recent success in Ireland as well as his brisk cameo against England in the first T20I, have made Kohli’s situation even worse. In fact, many have started believing that Kohli’s place in the next T20 World Cup in Australia later this year is in jeopardy. Who would have thought this could even be a topic of debate four months ago?
But what critics tend to forget is Kohli’s stats in T20Is, particularly in recent times. Since the start of 2020, he has batted 21 innings, scoring 675 runs at 136.09 with an average of 42.19. If one looks for his T20I numbers since 2021, the average increases to 47.5 and the strike rate stands at 131.94. How many are there to be brave enough to overlook these statistics and ask Kohli not to travel to Australia – a country where he traditionally carries confidence with his aggressive instincts.
Moreover, Kohli has represented India in 60 international matches across all three formats since 2020. Not one of his single teammates has played more than him during this period. One should understand the fact that sometimes managing a player’s workload becomes an issue, and non-stop cricket only makes a huge impact on their performance day in and day out.
The next T20 World Cup is not too far away. To get the best version of Kohli in there, the BCCI’s decision of giving Kohli a break was spot on. Yes, some may counter by pointing out that he can not pull off that much-anticipated ‘one match-defining knock’ if he does not play too often, but that is that. They should be aware of his current mental aspect as well.
Since making his debut back in 2010, Kohli has played 99 T20Is for India. His batting structure has only improved with time and his tally of 3,308 runs at 137.66 with an average of 50.12 speaks volumes. To get back his imperious form before the next ICC event, the best possible thing the BCCI could do was give him a rest before it is too late. Let us not forget how he read the games’ situations and the pitch in the past and how he used to bat while chasing or setting up a target. More importantly, he has had 70 international hundreds to his name and was in contention to break Sachin Tendulkar’s records. At 33, he may be still, who can predict the future?
If a group of experts makes a list of modern-day cricket greats from the last ten to twelve years, Kohli, despite not notching a single hundred for over 30 months, finds his name at the top. To be fair, a cricketer with that much rich calibre does not deserve the buzzing criticism, even in his darkest of times like the present.