Give Virat Kohli a break, India
Virat Kohli has had a nightmarish tour to England so far © Getty Images
Virat Kohli’s horror run with the bat continued on the English tour as he scored a duck in the second ODI at Cardiff, leading to him being ridiculed by the Indian fans and media even more. Abhishek Mukherjee pleads them to bring the taunts to a stop.
Virat Kohli has failed again: he walked out in the eight over to face Chris Woakes; he negotiated two balls, but could not hold himself back any longer as he faced the third. His poor form in the summer had probably led him to take desperate measures: he stepped out and even timed the ball decently — only to find Alastair Cook at mid-off.
It was another failure for the man who had been hailed as India’s next great batsman, the next Sachin Tendulkar, and the man who will replace MS Dhoni at the helm; he was already the one of the biggest stars in Indian cricket, was feared by opposition bowlers, was the new pin-up boy, and was considered by most critics as the best youth cricketer.
All that has come down with a crash as Kohli’s superlative form deserted him on the English tour. It was not unheard of: Sunil Gavaskar had a torrid time in his first series in England; Gundappa Viswanath, in both West Indies and England; Dilip Vengsarkar, in New Zealand and West Indies; Sachin Tendulkar, in New Zealand; Rahul Dravid, in Australia; and VVS Laxman, in South Africa.
But then, history of cricket is certainly not the strongest point of Indians: they prefer to live in the present. Research is something the average Indian cricket followers will certainly never be accused of — even by their staunch enemies. Hence, let us not trouble our minds with too much information.
Despite his failure in England, Kohli has scored 1,855 runs at 39.46 from 29 Tests. Prior to the England series his numbers read 1,721 at 46.51, which are respectable by any standards for a batsman who is still on the rise; before the series his overseas numbers read 862 runs at 43.10, which are the second-best by an Indian with 500 runs since Kohli’s Test debut (Rahul Dravid leads with 942 at 44.85).
Having said that, Kohli’s performance in England has been abysmal. It is not that he is a terrible overseas player: this is the same batsman Indians had lauded when he had scored his maiden Test hundred at Adelaide Oval; even on the last two overseas tours (in South Africa and New Zealand) Kohli had scored 486 at a commendable 69.43 with hundreds at New Wanderers and Basin Reserve.
Why has he failed? Has he been too cautious against James Anderson? Does he have a persistent problem against balls pitched outside the off-stump? Is it about technique? Is it about psychology? Or is it simply a bad patch (which will invariably lead to the cliché “form is temporary, class is permanent” the moment he gets back to form)? That is something for the experts, and Kohli, to find out.
Right now, before the third ODI at Trent Bridge, Kohli could really do with some support. He is a top-notch batsman, and the fans and media can do better than take consistent jibes at him. Let us, for once, forget the form and recall the moments of joy his stay at the wicket has given us; how our jaws had dropped when he kept on rolling those hundreds one after another; when he hit those bottom-handed off-drives and on-drives.
Let us stop taunting him. Let us stop having a dig at his personal life. Despite the immense expectations for being the biggest contender to fill up the huge void in the Indian middle-order, Kohli is only 25. Let us wait for the day when that blade will shine again. Let us give him some space of his own: he will surely sort things out.
Just let him be.
Complete coverage of India’s tour to England here
(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)