Team India and Royal Challengers Bangalore’s (RCB) superstar batter Virat Kohli has been in impressive form in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023. In three matches, he has scored 164 runs at an average of 82 and a strike rate of 147.75. He began with an unbeaten 82 off 49 balls against Mumbai Indians (MI) in Bengaluru, followed it up with 21 off 18 deliveries against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), and scored 61 off 44 balls versus Lucknow Super Giants (LSG).
While the numbers look rather impressive, Kohli came under some criticism for his knock against Lucknow Super Giants (LSG). Former New Zealand fast bowler and now commentator Simon Doull was critical of Kohli’s effort against LSG at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. He claimed that the Indian superstar batted too slowly so that he could reach a milestone. Kohli raced away to 42 off 25 inside the powerplay but took another 10 balls to reach his fifty. Doull commented about the innings, “Kohli was concerned about a personal milestone. He took 10 balls to score eight runs, Started off like a train, took 10 balls from 42-50 runs.”
While Doull’s comments led to a massive controversy and invited Kohli fans’ wrath, it also opened up a debate over whether the RCB is playing an outdated version of T20 cricket.
No place for a compilation
It must be remembered that Kohli is the all-time leading run-getter in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Having made his debut in the inaugural edition in 2008, he has slammed 6788 runs in 226 matches at an average of 36.69 and a strike rate of 129.54, with five hundred and 46 fifties. Even in T20I cricket, he is the leading run-getter with 4008 runs in 115 matches at an average of 52.73 and a strike rate of 137.96, with one hundred and 37 fifties. But there is another side to Kohli’s T20 career as well.
Being a fast-paced game, T20 cricket is all about going hammer and tongs, especially when the condition is in the batters’ favour, and the ground is small like the case was at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru against Lucknow. As such, Kohli’s 61, which came off 44 balls, was definitely a below-par effort with regard to the strike rate factor. While the 34-year-old ended his innings with a strike rate of 138.64, in the same match, LSG’s Marcus Stoinis and Nicholas Pooran showed T20 cricket should be played with the bat.
The Aussie hammered 65 off 30 balls with the aid of six fours and five sixes, smashing his runs at a strike rate of 216.67. As for the West Indian left-hander, his 62 came off only 19 balls, including four fours and as many as seven sixes. Pooran’s strike rate was an incredible 326.32. While it can be seen as a one-off effort, during which he reached 50 off 15 balls (the fastest in IPL 2023), the knock was a great illustration of how to go about playing a T20 knock.
At the post-match conference following LSG’s thrilling last-ball win over RCB, Pooran made a pertinent comment. He said, “One of the good things about our team is that we can also hit spinners and pacers. In T20 cricket, you need to be able to be dominant. Guys score 230-240, and it’s being chased down now.”
Dominant is the key word here, which is something that Kohli and RCB skipper Faf du Plessis were not good enough at during the knocks. While Kohli slowed down after a blazing start, Du Plessis overcame a disappointing start with some brutal hits at the end. However, he could not undo the damage that had already been caused to the scoring rate. At the end of the day, Bangalore put 212 on the board, which proved insufficient.
Not quick enough for T20 cricket?
If we look at the strike rates of some key players in the IPL 2023 so far, Pooran has a strike rate of 220.31 after four innings. He has clobbered 141 runs in 64 balls faced, hitting nine fours and 14 sixes. Another LSG player, opener Kyle Mayers has 139 runs to his name from 77 balls at a strike rate of 180.51, with 12 fours and nine sixes. Looking at other opening batters, Kohli’s opening partner Du Plessis has a strike rate of 173.26 in IPL 2023, Rajasthan Royal’s Joss Buttler is smashing it at 170, and Yashasvi Jaiswal at 160. In comparison, Kohli has a strike rate of under 150 (147.74), which is decent but not outstanding by modern-day standards.
Even in his overall IPL career, his strike rate of 129.54 pales in comparison to some of the bigger names who have played in the cash-rich T20 league. West Indies Andre Russell has a strike rate of 177.62 after 101 matches, Pooran 157.87 after 51 games, Virender Sehwag 155.44 in 101 games, Glenn Maxwell 154.92 in 113 matches, while Shimron Hetmyer, AB de Villiers, and Jos Buttler also have IPL strike-rates in excess of 150. Of course, it is a fair argument that barring the last two mentioned names in the list, the rest haven’t been as consistent (Hetmyer is beginning to show his humungous talent). At the same time, Kohli’s strike rate of under 130 can be considered low by T20 standards.
There was a time when batters took some balls to settle in and then went berserk. However, things seem to have changed drastically. Modern-day T20 cricket, especially the IPL, seems all about going after the bowling from the word go. Kohli has all the strokes in the book to succeed in the format. He needs a mindset change and adapts to the new way of playing the format. In short, Kohli needs to find a way to stay relevant in T20 cricket as the game zooms into an even faster lane from where it stands right now.