Virat Kohli has played every type of cover drive you can think of. Front-foot cover drive, back-foot cover drive, step-out and step-away in-out cover drive. Cover drive to the left of the cover fielder, cover drive to his right. A straight-bat, punchy cover drive and a flourishing topspin cover drive. Middle Cover Drive, Edged Cover Drive.
It took until his 110th Test match, however, for Kohli to play a cover drive, followed by a punch-the-air celebration when he hadn’t scored a 50, 100 or multiples thereof.
coli was However, a milestone is being celebrated. He hit the first boundary of his innings on the 81st ball he faced.
It was that kind of innings. The pitch for the first West Indies-India Test in Dominica was a slow turner with little bounce for the spinners, factors that limited the batsmen’s ability to drive the ball if not pitched properly, or use the pace of the bowlers to score. Their race.
Kohli took 81 balls to hit his first boundary, another 43 to hit his second and 36 to hit his third, by which time he had crossed 50.
It was far from Kohli’s most fluent innings, and there were bits of luck along the way – two missed chances on 40 and 72, and a run-out chance on 45 – but he was doing what he had to do. After bowling West Indies out for 150 runs on the first day, India were looking to bat once and bat big and he was helping them do just that. He was happy to bide his time, grind out runs and pump his fists whenever a boundary came.
These borderline celebrations were accompanied by a broad grin, indicating that he was enjoying his fight and aware of how deadly it made him look. Great batsmen don’t just score runs when every ball bounces off the sweet spot; They often place great value on the timing of runs despite having to contend with their own lack of fluency. They love to put up heroic battles against the best bowlers on difficult pitches and also love the days when they are their fiercest rivals.
The most remarkable thing about Sachin Tendulkar’s 241 not out in Sydney was not that he abandoned his cover drive, but that he put it away against a middle-order Australian attack on one of the flattest pitches he has ever batted on. It takes a lot for one of the greatest batters of all time to admit that none of his bread-and-butter shots were played well enough to be used even in those situations.
In recent months and years, some of Kohli’s longest Test innings have been this kind of self-denial: for example, 79 in Cape Town, the highest leave percentage of any recent Test innings, and 186 in Ahmedabad. He faced 122 balls and hit his first boundary of the fourth day. He’s happy to tweak his game to its finest elements when necessary, almost happy to put his ego aside.
But at times it feels different from the situation-specific shots that Sachin frequently delivers. With Kohli in recent seasons, something seems to have changed in his game, perhaps irreversibly.
This is, of course, a result of his low income during this period – only he has Average 30.75 Pandemic and pandemic times – and partly the influence of the quality of attacks he faced and the bowling-friendly nature of the pitches he batted on. Kohli is not alone among India’s batsmen in seeing his average and strike rate drop significantly since the turn of the decade.
The difference with Kohli, however, is that when he scored runs against quality attacks in Test conditions during the pre-pandemic era, he often did so at a significant clip. Take three celebrated innings from 2018: a strike rate of 70.50 in 153 at Centurion, 66.22 in his 149 at Birmingham, and 97 in Nottingham In 63.81.
It is not easy to say why Kohli has slowed down after 2020. The fundamentals of his game don’t seem to have changed much, but his limitations are hindering him now in a way that they didn’t in his prime. These limitations are always apparent. For example, he is a great puller, but he never had the back-foot collection on the off-side; He rarely sweeps, hits up or uses his feet to come down the pitch against spin. In Dominica, for example, he faced a lot of bowling from the West Indies’ part-time spinners but did not sweep or use the legs.
His eye isn’t what it used to be, and he doesn’t hit his go-to shots as ruthlessly as he once did. Or the bowlers are denying his go-to shots more successfully than before.
Whatever the reasons, Kohli hasn’t changed his game or added new shots to his repertoire. Without changing his game, Kohli has ironically become a different player. He is now scoring his runs more slowly, perhaps more assuredly than before, even though he seems to be at his worst with lean runs – he The average this year is 48.44compared to 26.20 during 2020-22. What hasn’t changed, as Dominika has shown, is how much he enjoys a scrap – even if it’s his fiercest rival.