We compare Virat Kohli’s slump with that of Saurav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and others to find out if he’s being extended a longer rope
Virat Kohli’s woeful run in the past couple of years is eerily similar to the Cuban fisherman Santiago, the central character of Ernest Hemingway’s award-winning The Old Man and the Sea. Santiago, once a highly skilled fisherman but now an old man with no money to buy proper equipment, has gone 84 days without catching a fish. On the 85th day, he catches the giant marlin far away from the shore, but loses it to a shark attack on his way back to the land.
Virat Kohli, a highly skilled batter who used to make centuries for fun, has now gone two years without reaching the triple-figure score. The free-flowing drives and flicks one associate with him seem like a thing of the past. At 32, he is not exactly old, but he is not young either. It’s the age where if you’re still performing at your peak, you would be hailed as a generational superathletes for whom age is just a number. But if you’re struggling on the field, much of it will be pinned to your age.
Of late, on occasions when Kohli has looked good, primed to score big, he has simply thrown away the start by playing a loose shot. What initially seemed like a usual cycle of crests and troughs, has now extended long enough to leave both the fans and administrators in an unusual, unexpected dilemma: Does Kohli deserves a longer rope? Or has he already passed the length of rope?
The history of the Indian cricketer is ripe with examples of heavyweights overstaying their welcome, waiting for that one miraculous innings that would change the whole narrative on its head. These behemoths get more time to prove themselves, to return back to their form. There were hardly any concerns over Kohli’s place when he was in the first year of his lean patch. But with no lights visible at the end of the tunnel, many feel dropping him out will be in the best interest of the team.
|Virat Kohli’s In Tests
Not too long ago, Virat Kohli was touted as the prime contender to break Sachin Tendulkar’s record for the most number of centuries. But there has been a glaring omission in the century column since 2019, as he is still stuck at 27. In the same timeframe, England’s Joe Root has managed to add 11 centuries to his name, and is now ahead of Kohli, which at one point seemed improbable.
But this is not just about a century. Kohli has played 18 Tests since 2020, averaging just a shade over 25. His cumulative batting average has dropped below 50, which is not a good indication of a player of his calibre.
Earlier this year, both Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane were dropped from the Test squad. Admittedly, their performances in the last couple of years have left a lot to be desired. But both Pujara and Kohli had very identical numbers, and Rahane too was not far behind.
|Virat Kohli In 2021
|Chetshwar Pujara In 2021
|Ajinkya Rahane In 2021
Murali Vijay too deserved longer ropes but was sidelined quickly by Kohli himself. Similarly, when India was trailing West Indies 3-0 in 1983, the chorus for Sunil Gavaskar’s exclusion gained momentum. Even though Gavaskar was the most accomplished batter of the side, two mediocre innings were all it took for the public to question his spot.
It’s rare to see former Indian cricketers getting dropped from the Test squad. Given India are not playing Test matches for the rest of the year, Kohli has a lot of time, and he can grind out in the domestic circuit, to regain his rhythm and touch. But it’s highly unlikely one will see Kohli in Ranji Trophy.
Kohli’s case is strange but not unprecedented. In the past, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly were dropped out of the side just after the 2007 World Cup, as the new skipper MS Dhoni wanted to build a fresh unit for the 2011 World Cup. Ganguly was dropped a couple of years ago too, after failing to score century for more than two years.
|Sourav Ganguly In ODIs
Just ahead of the ICC 2003 World Cup, Sourav Ganguly dropped VVS Laxman after a string of poor scores. Laxman played eight matches and scored just over 200 runs in 2003. Although Ganguly regretted the decision later on, his exclusion was totally justifiable.
|VVS Laxman In ODIs
When Dravid was dropped in 2007, his records in the last couple of years were far from underwhelming. In 2006, he managed to score over 900 runs at an average of 35.3. Next year, he played 18 matches and managed 822 runs. However, in his last ten matches before he was rested for the last ODI against Australia, Dravid’s average was just over 10.
|Rahul Dravid In ODIs
It shouldn’t come as surprise if Kohli loses out on his place if he doesn’t overturn his form. While ODI is still his best hope to get back in form, his performances in this format in 2022 have been far from encouraging. In eight innings, Kohli has amassed just 175 runs, at an average of just a shade over 20.
|Virat Kohli’s In ODIs
This is the most pressing question that the Indian team is facing, with just months remaining for the T20I World Cup in Australia. In 2022, Kohli has made 81 runs in four T20Is, while in the IPL this year, the former RCB skipper managed just 341 runs in 16 innings, at a strike rate of 115.
Despite an underwhelming campaign, Kohli was rested for the T20Is against South Africa, and is rested again for the T20I series in the Caribbean. It makes little sense to rest a player who is struggling to buy runs.
”Yes, now the situation is such that you might be forced to bench Kohli from T20 playing eleven. If world No. 2 bowler Ashwin can be dropped from Test side then (once upon a time) world No. 1 batter can also be dropped,” said Kapil Dev.
Moreover, his conservative approach in the Powerplay often puts an extra burden on the rest of the batting order. But the absence of Kohli will create a problem of different sorts. A majority of the Indian batters haven’t played many games in Australian conditions, and for someone like Suryakumar Yadav, who has already sealed his spot, this will be the first outing in Australia. Thus it makes sense for the Indian side to back Kohli, who has already conquered those conditions multiple time.
Featured Image Credit: BCCI