Virat Kohli’s poor form has been a matter of intense debate over the last few months. The voices, both in support and against the cricketer’s continued inclusion in the Indian team, have been growing with every failure of the 33-year-old. Recently, the former Indian captain had a horror run in England during which he registered a highest score of 20 from six international innings across the three formats. Subsequently, he was rested for the entire white ball series in the West Indies, which led to another controversy. Some even questioned if he had been dropped.
Kohli’s form is a genuine concern no doubt. While he doesn’t have an international century since November 2019, his overall numbers in the last two years are not great either. Since the start of January 2021, Kohli has played 15 Tests in which he has scored 756 runs at an average of 29.07, way below his overall average of nearly 50. His highest score during his phase has been 79 while he also registered a score of 72 against England. His away average during this period (31.53) is slightly better than his home average (26.27). The numbers are disappointing nonetheless.
In one-day matches starting January 2021, Kohli has 304 runs in 11 games at an average of 27.63. He has a highest score of 66, which came against England and scored 65 during the tour of South Africa at the start of 2022. He averages 25.83 in home ODIs during this phase and 29.80 in away games. Clearly, the numbers make for unimpressive reading. But, it would be an interesting exercise to analyze how the other members of the Fab 4 performed during their lean phase. We do the number-crunching.
Former England captain Joe Root has not had what we can call a disastrous year in his decade-long Test career so far. Only in two calendar years has he averaged under 40 in Tests. At the start of his career, in 2013, he scored 862 runs in 14 matches at an average of 34.48. Even then, he managed two Test hundreds with a best of 180. He suffered another mini-slump in 2019 when he scored 851 runs in 12 matches at an average of 37. He again scored two tons during this phase, with a best of 226! Root did not score a Test hundred in the whole of 2020. Still, he finished the year with a healthy average of 42.18 in eight matches.
Unlike Tests though, where he has been in supreme form over the last few seasons, Root has had his struggles in the one-day format in recent years. He averaged over 50 in ODIs in 2019, but the same slipped to 21.20 in 2020. He played six matches this year, but scored only 106 runs with a best of 49. The ongoing year has also been a poor one for the former England Test captain thus far in the one-day format. Apart from an 86 against South Africa, he has registered scores of 0, 11, 0 and 1.
There was a point in time when Steve Smith and Kohli were regarded as the two best all-format players of the modern game. Smith has experienced a few lows in Test cricket, but commendably none of them have lasted too long to worry the Aussie think tank. Smith averaged 23.37 from four Tests in 2010, but that came at a time when he was primarily a leg-spinner who could bat a bit. If we look at his poor chase in Test cricket after he established himself as a batter, the Aussie averaged 37.42 after playing 11 Tests in 2013. He did manage a couple of hundreds with a best of 138*.
He had an average of 32.14 after four Tests in 2018 before being banned for his role in ball tampering. He returned with a bang in 2019, averaging 74.23 from eight Tests with three hundreds. Smith amassed 965 runs in this calendar year. Smith’s worst season in Tests so far came in 2020. However, he played only three Tests in that year, scoring 73 runs at an average of 18.25. Smith’s poor numbers were primarily because of a shocking series against India during which he registered scores of 1, 1*, 0 and 8.
Shifting focus to his one-day career, Smith averaged under 30 in every season from 2010 to 2013, but this was before he established himself in the Australian ODI team. During this four-year period, he only played a total of 33 matches, 20 of them in 2011 in which he averaged a lowly 20.40. In the phase after he stamped his credentials as a batter, he averaged under 40 only twice. In 2018, he averaged 20.40 in five matches and in the subsequent year, after returning from his ban, he averaged 37.90 from 10 games with a best of 85.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson has been amazingly consistent in Test cricket for many years now. He has averaged over 40 in every calendar year from 2013 to 2021. His two poor years in the Test format were registered in 2011 and 2012, when he was still finding his feet at the international level. In 2011, he averaged 27.60, scoring only 276 runs in five Tests with a best of 68. He did score a couple of hundreds in 2012, but averaged only 32.88 after 10 Tests, scoring a total of 559 runs.
Wiliamson has had a couple of poor years in one-dayers as well. He scored 196 runs in nine matches at an average of 24.50 in 2010. In 2012, he averaged 27.38, scoring only 356 runs in 15 matches with a best of 69.
Conclusion: Like Kohli, Smith, Root and Williamson have also gone through bad phases. But unlike Kohli, none of the other three from the Fab 4 had poor seasons in consecutive years after establishing their credentials.