Written By: Bhawana Jarwal
Virat Kohli, the modern-day cricketing wizard, is rich with a plethora of adjectives & titles only because the genius batter has always adapted quickly to bring out his A-game. Like all the greats, he knows where to tweak his technique to overcome his weakness. Virat Kohli, the young gun climbing through the ranks from 2008 to 2014 until that England tour, never had to alter his batting technique. He was never really under any pressure. He was scoring truckloads of runs effortlessly in white ball. But Jimmy Anderson found out the escape clause and exposed his vulnerability in playing outside his off-stump.
Virat in 2014 had a short front-foot stride, and the bat in his hand was coming from the third man region, so each time the ball swung, the bat was angled, which meant he got edged. In addition to that, Virat was opening up his hip in his stance, which made the case worse. For a 24-year-old, that England tour would have buried him with self-doubts. It would have been tough for anyone to come out from that phase. But that is where legends stand out. Virat went to the drawing board, closely assessed himself, took the help of Master Blaster Sachin, and revamped his game. For the next away test series after the England tour, India landed in Australia in Dec 2014, and when Virat took the strike in Adelaide, it was evident that he had polished his game. He batted outside the crease with legs apart by a mile, adjusting to get close to the pitch of the ball. The head and shoulder were better aligned, and his back foot stance was pointing to the backward point, which meant he was not opening up. The outcome was indisputable, with 4 impressive tons against that Aussie attack in their backyard.
From 2014 to 2018, Virat was going out, scoring runs and churning hundreds for fun. But with greats, they constantly evolve and are open to adding new things to propel their game. One such instance was in that South Africa tour of 2018. Virat always tapped his bat during his stance while the bowler was running in to bowl. But after a couple of innings in that series, he kept holding his bat up in his batting stance. When asked about this high bat lift during a post-match interview, he replied that, while fielding at the slip position, he picked it from AB and felt that while AB was batting the same way, he was playing and missing more, while Virat himself, when tapping the bat was nicking it off. That one little fine-tuning he made is not spoken of or celebrated much, but Virat Kohli 2.0 started from there. A terrific series against Proteas, then that gigantic England tour where he showed who the boss is and that Perth hundred against Aus in 2018. The best phase of Virat the test batter was during that period as he peaked in whites too.
Post the covid break in international cricket, Virat Kohli has not been at his typical best. But that does not mean he has not contributed. He played a good knock in the only test he played in Australia before he left for the birth of his child. He played well against England in India and was declared the Man of the series in the T20I series. He did not set the England tour on fire but scored three fifties. Even in the South Africa tour, Virat played and made a fighting 70 odd runs but ran out of partners. But that is not what you expect from Kohli, as he has set his standards so high. The long century drought of almost 3 years has amused the spectators, but the close onlookers of his game will know that a big comeback knock is around the corner. The 71st ton has become an obsession among Indian fans as the placards reading the number 71 have become an everyday sight in the stadium games or on social posts. The datum set by him has resulted in the kind of expectation that he himself is finding it difficult to breach. Virat still has not lost the appetite for runs, and let us hope that the long wait of 1.38 billion Indians will soon be over by scoring that elusive 71 st ton.
Coming to the IPL 2022, After a moderate or poor run by his standards in this edition of IPL, Virat came with an altered stance against Gujarat Titans, where he scored the 70 odd runs. For the first time, Virat was seen not shuffling in his stance. He was getting down the bat from the first slip position so that bat was not angled while meeting the ball. He was much more balanced at the crease. Time will tell if Virat can counter this lean phase with these changes. But Virat has always come on top each time he brought changes in his game. One could see what Virat means to RCB. In fact what he means to the whole nation. When Virat scores, RCB is a different unit. For RCB to make it to the playoffs without a constant contribution from Virat is a massive achievement. Mike Hesson-Sanjay Bangar duo can take pride in what they have done with this team and the nurturing and support to bring them to playoffs. RCB expected Virat’s bat blade to come into action in Q2 v/s RR, but hopes were cut short by an excellent delivery outside off, from Prasidh. Still, RCB can be proud of their display of spirit and passion that was upheld on the ground and coming so far. DK-The finisher avatar has been their savior on many occasions, and Harshal has provided that stability at the death in the bowling unit along with Hazelwood. These positives are huge takeaways, preparing for next season and is fingers crossed for witnessing the King Kohli peak again.
What sets champions apart from the ordinary is the sheer grit and strong will to fightback and overcome without succumbing to situations. For King Kohli, the unusually long rusty patch hasn’t hindered his fandom and their trust, very evident in a match v/s Delhi in the Mumbai ground, where all it reverberated was RCB chants which was a cover up rooting for Kohli. . See you in the international cricket, King Kohli.