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Innocent Admission

Kohli’s batting struggles in Tests mental, not technical

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New Delhi, June 26, 2021 (Agency) Indian skipper Virat Kohli’s manner of dismissal in the second innings of the World Test Championship final against New Zealand in Southampton has drawn comparisons to his dismissals during the 2014 trip to England when the India No. 4 batsman was struggling to handle the movement. But this time, it could be his mind letting him down and not technique.

While former England captain Nasser Hussain thought his second innings dismissal “was similar to how he was getting dismissed in the 2014 series in England”, some Indian cricket experts feel Kohli, after all that he has done in the past, can afford a lean patch during which such dismissals happen.

Kohli’s recent run, especially in Test matches, has raised eyebrows. His average in Test cricket has been 24.64 in the eight Tests since he last scored a Test century back in November, 2019. It is very low compared to his career Test average of 52.04.

Even his ODI batting average has taken a hit. It is 43.26 in the phase (between December 1, 2019 to now) as against his career average of 59.07. That apart, he has not got a single century in the period.

“It (lean phase) has happened to the best of people, happened to Sunil Gavaskar, Mohinder Amarnath, happened to me. I had good seasons in 1969, 1970, 1971 but in 1972 I got five zeroes in Ranji Trophy despite the fact that I was in good form,” said former India batsman, coach and selector Anshuman Gaekwad.

Another former national selector Gagan Khoda too said it is not something to worry about.

“Every player goes through a lean phase. Playing eight Test matches without a century or a dip in average does not mean that a batsman like Kohli will continue to fail. He has made so many runs, scored so many centuries over the years, so there will be a time when he will struggle. Every batsman does,” said Khoda.

Gaekwad refuses to blame any technical weakness in Kohli. But he points out to something that can let a seasoned and experienced batsman down with his technique.

“The more you play, the more calculations you get in your mind. Technique goes with mind. You think it will work, (but) it doesn’t work,” he adds.

“Cricket is a game of the mind. It is about how you apply your mind.”

Gaekwad said that players can sometimes not perform to potential and that is what has happened to Kohli.

“That is why assessments go wrong. We thought India will win but they didn’t perform to potential. Same can happen to individuals,” he said.

Since his November 2019 Test ton against Bangladesh, Kohli has managed just three half-centuries in eight Tests.

Kohli though hasn’t looked out of sorts. His two half-centuries (72 and 62) in the first two Tests against England in Chennai this year came on pitches that were tough to bat on. His other half-century, in the first Test in Adelaide in December 2020, helped India gain a first-innings lead before India collapsed for 36 in the second innings.

In the 15 One-day Internationals he has played since November 2019 Test century against Bangladesh, Kohli has scored 649 runs, averaging 43.26 (as against a career average of 59.07). Unlike in Tests, he has been more consistent in this format, scoring eight half-centuries, but he has failed to get a Test century.

The T20 format is the only one at international level where his average during the last one-and-a-half-years has climbed. It is 64.45 (709 runs) as against a career average of 52.65.

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