Virat Kohli has consistently been shunted up and down the batting order © Getty Images
Virat Kohli has consistently been shunted up and down the batting order © Getty Images

 

By Vivek Atray

 

It’s been a World Cup of mixed emotions so far for Virat Kohli. He started off with a magnificent ton against Bangladesh at No 4 but has not got to bat at that position since that game to flounder badly in remaining matches.

 

His fielding has been effervescent and even brilliant during the Cup. His catch to dismiss of AB de Villiers on the boundary was quite magnificent. His throws have been accurate and as the youngest and fittest in the team, he has been used by Mahendra Singh Dhoni to man all key positions on the field.

 

But Kohli is in the team for his batting. And despite being fluent and successful up the order, he hasn’t quite managed to hit the big shots down the order. He has been forced to bat in the slog overs, ironically due to the success of the opening pair in almost every game that India has played in this World Cup. By the time the second wicket has fallen India’s innings has, in most matches, progressed well into the second half and Kohli has been superseded by the likes of Yusuf Pathan, Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni – all known for their big-hitting abilities.

 

Despite being the World’s 4th-ranked ODI batsman, Kohli found making way for the big hitters. He has had to play the unfamiliar role of attempting to hit sixes from the word go – something that he hasn’t been able to come to terms with.

 

It is clear that Kohli is a big innings player and he needs a bit of time to settle in. With Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag in such blistering form and with Gautam Gambhir solid at No 3, Kohli is unable to bat higher than No 4.

 

England’s Jonathan Trott , with five scores of over 40 in the tournament, is a prime example for India to follow in Kohli’s case – allowing the technically correct batsman score freely and heavily up the order.

 

The fact remains that Kohli’s career average at No 3 or No 4 is much higher than it is at No 7.  Another reason for India not to reshuffle its order is that Yusuf Pathan has a much healthier average at No 6 or No 7 than he does at No 4.

 

Virat Kohli is a player to be utilised up the order, when the orthodox shots can still yield boundaries and classical strokes can pay dividends. In the remaining matches of the World Cup and beyond, India would certainly benefit by keeping Kohli at No 4.

 

(A civil servant by profession, Vivek Atray is a cricket writer who has contributed to the Indian Express, the Tribune and to various cricket websites. He organises the All India JP Atray Cricket Tournament at Chandigarh annually in memory of his father. He has also been Media Advisor to the Punjab Cricket Association and to Kings XI Punjab).