NEW DELHI (TIP): Has the BCCI missed a trick by not including Virat Kohli in the Rest of India squad for the Irani Cup, or even the India A and Board President’s XI teams which play warm-up matches against Australia? Kohli, arguably India’s brightest new-generation batting hope, hasn’t exactly been in sparkling form this season and a stint in either of these teams could have served him well ahead of the crucial Tests against Australia. Denied match practice by the Indian cricket board, Kohli is now simulating match situations and making crucial technical adjustments ahead of the Tests by training here under long time coach Rajkumar Sharma.
Although his ODI career so far has been spectacular – he won the ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year in 2012 – Kohli is aware that doubts remain about his ability to replicate that success in the longer format. Worryingly, his consistency has dipped across formats in recent times: since the unbeaten 128 against Sri Lanka in Colombo in July 2012, he has only two scores above 30 from nine ODIs, including the 77 not out against England in Ranchi.
In Tests, he got a hundred against England in Nagpur but that knock came after a string of low scores. After a good series against the Kiwis last August, his sequence of scores against England read 19, 14 not out, 19, 7, 6, 20 and finally the 103 in the fourth Test. “It would have been good if he had played in some of the warm-up matches. It was BCCI’s choice. That decision had nothing to do with us,” Sharma told TOI. “Maybe the rest will do him good. Here in the academy, we are simulating Test-match situations.
I tell Kohli about field placements, like three slips, a gully, even a forward short-leg and he has to adjust his shots accordingly. “We are also working on him leaving a lot of deliveries. Virat tends to push at the ball in ODIs but for the Tests, he has to get rid of the habit. He is a tough guy and a hard worker. He knows he needs a slight temperamentshift for Tests.
He is focusing on staying longer at the crease, yet scoring briskly.” Former India opener Aakash Chopra, Kohli’s former teammate in the Delhi Ranji team, says the batsman must learn to deal with patches of indifferent form. “He has some technical glitches and there will be stages in his career when Kohli will go through bad form. For example, he has a short, back-andacross forward stride which makes him susceptible to balls that are pitched fuller and moving. More than the Irani Cup, where the quality of Mumbai’s bowling isn’t very good, Kohli and Gautam Gambhir both should have been played in the warmup matches.” Former India all-rounder Madan Lal agrees the BCCI didn’t give this too much thought but is hopeful Kohli will hit form against Australia. “Kohli has the right ideas. I don’t know if he needed rest.
People groomed on the longer format find it less difficult to adjust to shorter formats. But with so much ODIs and T20 being played, younger international batsmen these days have to consciously make changes for Tests, which is not easy. So the more you play, the better it is.” Every batsman goes through bad form, but the very best can shrug it off sooner than the others. Can Kohli afford another patchy series against Australia?