When Virat Kohli’s lean patch began a couple of seasons ago, he got backing from all corners. The unanimous voice was that he’s a class act and would tide over the rough times. Match after match, series after series and now two IPLs in a row. The man who holds the record for amassing 973 runs in a single IPL season (2016) has been dismissed for golden ducks not once, not twice, but three times this season.
It would be an understatement to say that he has been a shadow of his former self. He has not been even that. If he doesn’t score a century by November this year, it will mark three years since his last hundred. Even the best of cricketers go through rough patches, but in the case of Kohli, the duration of the struggle has gone much beyond the realm of poor form. It is much more than that and, dangerous as it may sound for Indian cricket, something more mental.
Not about taking a break
In the wake of his abysmal run in IPL 2022 for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), suggestions have been coming in from various quarters that Kohli needs a break to get back in shape. Former Indian head coach Ravi Shastri is among those who has advocated the 33-year-old to stay away from the game, pointing out that he has looked overcooked. On the other hand, former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar has suggested that Kohli cannot take a break from India matches if he is ready to play in the IPL. He further argued that the run machine of a few years back can only rediscover his rhythm if he plays more matches out in the middle and battles it out. This is a moot point, though, as what is more significant is to bring out what’s going on in Kohli’s mind.
The RCB batter’s dismissals in IPL 2022 cannot be put down to poor form. It has been more like he is not mentally prepared for the bowler. Take the chip off Jagadeesha Suchith in the match against the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH). It was the friendliest of deliveries, and a Kohli in the right frame of mind would have dispatched or defended it with ease. But what did he do? He just gently lobbed the ball up in the air to give the simplest of catching practice to his dear friend in the opposition Kane Williamson. It was not a ball that deserved a wicket. Even in some of the previous matches, it is not the ball but the uncertainty in Kohli’s mind that has got him out. Don’t forget, he has been run out twice, and has also been involved in the run out of Glenn Maxwell.
Can Kohli open up?
When Maxwell decided to take a mental health break from the game, Kohli was among the first cricketers to applaud him and advocated more players to come out in the open in case they are facing similar issues. His exact words were, “I think what Glenn has done is remarkable. It will set the right example for cricketers worldwide that if you’re not in the best frame of mind, you try, you try and try. As human beings, you reach a tipping point at some stage; you need some time away from the game.”
He also asserted that players seeking a mental break should be respected, and such things should be seen positively. Whether or not Kohli needs a mental break is a question only the man can best answer. What is important here is for the former Indian captain to walk the talk and be open about what’s going on in his mind. He has been through a lot over the last year, resigning from captaincy in two formats and being sacked from one. Things just seemed to be boiling up for him. For the sake of Indian cricket and the man himself, it is paramount to know what’s going on in that mind that once dominated world cricket.