Virat Kohli needs to improve his numbers in Tests if he is to truly become an all-time great

Virat Kohli has scored at an average of 41.96 in his first 18 Tests © Getty Images

All the attention before the first Test between India and West Indies was centered in on Sachin Tendulkar. After three days of the match, all the focus is on Rohit Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin. Somewhere in between, Virat Kohli’s cheap dismissal has been missed. For the amount of runs and centuries he scores in ODIs, Kohli has been unable to reproduce similar feats in Tests. Kohli needs to up his numbers in the longest format of the game to become a true great. Shrikant Shankar has more.

Virat Kohli is a sensation in world cricket. He is part of a new India that plays without any fear and gives more back to the opposition than receiving in more ways than one. People call him brash and arrogant, but his numbers and statistics in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) more than back his attitude. Kohli has scored heavily against almost all the teams he has played. He has also performed in overseas conditions he has at home. He is as close to the modern-day complete batsman, especially in the shorter formats, as one would expect.

He has played 119 ODIs as of November 8, 2013, and he has scored 4,919 runs at an average of 51.77. He has also scored 17 centuries and 26 half-centuries with a highest of 183. If he maintains these numbers, then Sachin Tendulkar’s legendary career figures will not last for long as the best. Kohli has been that good over the last few years. But when one takes a glance at his numbers in Tests, there is quite a difference in the statistics.

Make no mistake, the numbers Kohli has in Tests as of now will be envied by many. But for the talent he possesses, he has not done enough justice to himself in Tests. He was dismissed for only three against West Indies in the first innings of the first Test at Kolkata on November 7, 2013. India were in a spot of bother at the time, but centuries from Rohit Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin have allayed any fears of losing the match. The focus is now on those two and [as always on] Tendulkar. Kohli’s latest blemish has gone quite unnoticed.

Batsmen can get out for 0, 1, 2, 3, 4… and so on. People can say that it is just one innings, and rightly so. But Kohli has not exactly taken the Test arena by storm. Not including the ongoing first Test against West Indies, Kohli has played 18 Tests for India. In those matches, he has scored 1,175 runs at an average of 41.96. He has also scored four centuries and six half-centuries with a highest of 116. As mentioned above, these are very good numbers for someone who is relatively new in Test cricket. But Kohli can do so much more as there is sizeable difference when compared with his ODI statistics.

He has only played seven Tests away from home and the rest have been in conditions he is very used to. He took a while to get going in Test cricket and scored his first century in his 14th innings. In the next four innings, Kohli had scored another century and two half-centuries. Then came a lean patch. In the first six innings against England at home, he failed to cross the 20-run mark. He finally broke the shackles and got his third century in the seventh innings against England.

Kohli followed that up immediately with another century against Australia. In the next six innings that have followed, he has notched only one half-century. This goes to show that he has not been that consistent as he would like to be. He has the talent, temperament and skill to succeed in the longest form of the game. Tendulkar will retire after his 200th Test in Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium. Kohli has been seen as the man who will occupy that legendary No 4 spot for in India in Tests. With important away tours to South Africa, New Zealand and England coming in the next one year, India needs their best batsman in scintillating form if they have to succeed in any of those tours.

Many-a-time, Kohli has also thrown away his wicket rather than the bowler actually getting him out. So, he needs to sort out certain aspects of his game in the longest format. There is no denying his ability and he is already a modern-day great in ODIs. But if Kohli is truly to become an all-time great, he needs to improve his numbers even further in Tests.

(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)