The first innings of the rescheduled Birmingham Test against England saw Virat Kohli register another low score in his growing list (we can call it a book now) of failures. But more than his dismissal, it was how the 33-year-old got out that should worry the Indian think tank. He played a nothing shot, dangling his bat outside off the stump and trying to withdraw it at the last moment, only managing to guide the ball back on to the stumps. Then, even in the second innings, he failed to get going and was dismissed by Ben Stokes.
In the build-up to the Edgbaston Test, Team India’s head coach Rahul Dravid had asserted that Kohli was practicing hard, and his runs in the warm-up game indicated that he was ticking the right boxes. However, Kohli’s uncertainty out in the middle points to a completely different tale. And this is not a one-off. During India’s previous tour of England, he was constantly flirting outside the off stump.
Kohli had an abysmal Test series against Sri Lanka at home, an opponent he earlier scored bucketful of runs against with his eyes closed. Three golden ducks followed in IPL 2022. No, it wasn’t a coincidence but a reflection of the batter’s unsettled mindset. Check out the replays, and you will know what we are talking about.
Losing his ‘Fab’ status?
Kohli, Steve Smith, Joe Root and Kane Williamson are often termed as the modern-day Fab 4, particularly for their amazing feats in Test cricket. However, in the wake of his struggles in the last two and a half years, one needs to ask the pertinent question. Is it still Fab 4, or has the time come to bring it down to Fab 3? Has Kohli done enough to retain his status as a fabulous player? We need to take a look at the stats of all players to arrive at a better conclusion.
Since his last Test century, against Bangladesh in Kolkata in November 2019, Kohli has played 18 Tests in which he has scored 852 runs at an average of 27.48 with a best of 79. He has averaged under 30 in six Tests in England as well as seven Tests in India. He managed only 38 runs in two Tests in New Zealand. His best performance in the last two years came in South Africa earlier this year. He averaged over 40 but again failed to cross three figures.
In the same period, Root has smashed 3248 runs in 34 Tests at an average of 58 with 11 hundreds, six of them coming away from home. As for Australia’s Smith, he, too, hasn’t been as prolific, but he has still produced much better numbers than Kohli. In his last 17 Tests, Smith has scored 1039 runs at an average of nearly 40 with one hundred. He has averaged 56.50 in Pakistan and 38.42 in Australia. Finally, looking at Williamson’s numbers, he has missed a few games due to injury. But, in the same phase, he has scored 1154 runs in 11 Tests at an average of 54.95 with four hundreds and a best of 251.
How long is too long?
Without a doubt, Kohli has deserved a longer run than others to prove his mettle all over again. At his peak, which was for nearly a decade since his debut, he was unarguably one of the greatest match-winners of all time across the three formats of the game. He has scored runs in all conditions, across all formats and in all kinds of conditions. Few players have had the kind of impact on the game that Kohli has had.
At the same time, the fact that we have begun to refer to Kohli’s achievements in the past tense means that the batter is surviving on past glory. The big question is – for how long? There is a fine line between persevering and taking your place in the team for granted. It is up to the Indian think tank to decide if that line has been crossed or if things are getting to that boiling point.