Kohli is no longer carrying the team in T20 cricket, rather it’s the other way around
Kohli genuinely believes he is the best batsman in the world, although this has not been true for some time. He has gone from the person to beat Sachin Tendulkar’s records in a gallop to someone who can’t find his 71st international hundred for two and a half years.
Kohli believes he is the best version of himself, although bowlers think otherwise, evidenced by the fact that he has got three first-ball dismissals in this Indian
League. One was a waft outside off, one a slap to point and one a flick to midwicket.
Kohli thinks he is one innings away from going back to being a game-changer, and the Royal Challengers Bangalore concur because they are in sight of a playoff spot. He has scored one half-century, at just about a run-a-ball, and otherwise, put pressure on others to go big. Something is ailing Kohli.
Except he does not think so. In videos with RCB’s social media jester, Kohli talks about going to a Bangalore bakery unr e c o g n i s e d and how it is liberating. Every time he is asked about his lack of runs in press conferences — not now, but running on three years — he has laughed it off, reminding his impressive Instagram faithful that the people asking the questions don’t know any better.
What about Ravi Shastri, the former India coach who is also Kohli’s biggest supporter? As a pundit, he reckoned Kohli was “overcooked” and needed a break. “He needs a break because he has got 6-7 years of cricket left in him and you don’t want to lose that with a fried brain.”
At 33, Kohli probably does not have 6-7 years of cricket in him, but even his biggest cheerleader says he needs a break.
At RCB, Kohli has intimate access to his onetime India batting coach. Sanjay Bangar said: “He is doing everything in his control.” Has the coach solved the problem? Is it a technical problem? Can it be solved?
Being a Kohli supporter was good for you. Until recently, when Kohli discovered life is not all about people telling you how great you were, even when you weren’t.
When successful batsmen go through an inevitable slump, they have three options:
They hit their way out of a slump, which Kohli has not been able to do. They put their head down and bat into form, which you can’t do in T20 cricket, or when you do it harms your team. Or they step away and go back to the coaches who know their game best and therefore can help. Kohli can’t and won’t leave his beloved RCB mid-campaign to do that.
In short, there are ways in which Kohli could help himself, and the teams he plays for, but he chooses not to, so far.
In Rahul Dravid, Kohli has one of the best technicians as coach of the Indian team. It was brought to the attention of the coach that Kohli’s dismissals outside off, against non-slow bowlers, followed a pattern. On average it was middle stump in 2019, 9cm outside off in 2020, 26 cm outside off in 2021.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there is a trend here. It does take an honest, even humble, batter to admit there was a failing and look for a coach who might help fix it.
Instead, all these years we have been fed with a steady diet of “one good knock and he’ll be back.” Or that Kohli has no interest in listening to external noise from outside his bubble.
There is also the chance that there are technical deficiencies that have crept into Kohli’s game but those coaches are wary of pointing it out.
Everyone knows how things ended for the last coach who did not see eye to eye with Kohli when it came to doing things a certain way.
The giving up of T20 captaincy, the taking away of the chance for him to lead India to victory in the next 50-over World Cup and his own reverse-slide away from the Test captaincy, cannot have had no effect on Kohli the batsman. As much as someone tries to separate captaincy and playing, there is a human element involved.
Alternatively, they could be Kohli’s way of acknowledging that the best is behind him and this is possibly the beginning of the end, even if that is some years away.
Kohli could still win this IPL with RCB. But, after all these years, in his heart, if he does not recognise that he is no longer carrying the team in T20 cricket, rather it’s the other way around, that would be a pity.
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