When Virat Kohli conquered his demons with a century in Australia, the only one the Indians managed on that wretched tour in 2011, he was almost immediately earmarked as India’s next number four, a place that before him was occupied for 20 years by the best number four the cricketing world had ever seen.
You wouldn’t want to follow up on an act like that, but such is the curse of great talent. The wars you wage are always bigger, much bigger.
India’s best batsman right now is waging one such war in England in a series where he has been so bad, you would think he was batting with a stump instead of a bat.
Such has been his touch Indians are used to, they believed he could still score either side of the wicket with nothing more than a stump.
Virat Kohli averages 13.5 in eight innings this series, lower than that of Mohammed Shami. Even Bhuvneshwar Kumar, India’s potential bowling all-rounder, has scored more than twice his tally of 108 runs with a highest score of just 39.
However, the most alarming stat that most people do not pay attention to is the number of balls faced in eight innings: 216. Even Ravindra Jadeja has faced more deliveries than that. Virat Kohli has two more innings to repair those stats, as much for his own sake, as for the sake of the team.
He is a proud cricketer and these numbers will give him nightmares for years to come if he doesn’t conquer them on these very shores.
There is a distinct pattern in all of Kohli’s dismissals. Adjudged LBW once, lost his off-stump shouldering arms once and caught in the slips or by the wicket-keeper - that has been Kohli’s sorry tale.
That happens only when a batsman isn’t really assured or tight enough in the corridor of uncertainty.
Kohli is perhaps the best driver of the ball in the game. He is one of the few Indian players whose back-foot play is just as sound as the front-foot play.
Yet, he is being fidgety, nicking at balls he had no business dealing with, pushing at deliveries he should have been let go with utter indifference.
James Anderson has had his number in the last few Tests and rightly so, because Anderson pulls exactly the aces that intimidate cricketers short of runs, balls that pitch in the corridor and move either way.
This is Virat Kohli's first full tour to England in the playing XI and definitely not his last. He has been seen practicing hard in the nets, although, the timing has been awry even against the Indian pacers in the nets.
However, the one thing Kohli shouldn’t forget is that India needs him to spend time on the field as much as they would need him to score runs.
Time in Test matches, is as essential a commodity as runs, sometimes more so. Perhaps he has to take a leaf out of his predecessor’s book, that wonderful tale specifically, of his double-century in Australia scored without a single cover drive.
If Sachin Tendulkar could manage it against a high quality pace attack, Virat Kohli can do the same, making the bowlers bowl more to him, on his legs, an area where he can whip the balls all day long with disdain.
© Cricket World 2014