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Tempting fate with Kohli's praise

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Graph_Virat_Kohli_runs_average

The graph above shows Virat Kohli's Test batting. The dotted ellipse, the pink circles and the violet arrow have been added on by the writer. This is a part of Virat Kohli’s Test batting record – the most interesting part till date. Readers may already have guessed that the violet arrow indicates the point where he took over officially as captain of the Indian Test team from MS Dhoni.

Virat_Kohli_Test_Cricket_Captain_IndiaOf course, he got a go at skippering in the Adelaide Test of the same series, in which Dhoni did not play, and ended up losing that one. But that was what one would call a trial by fire. An acid test. He scored a century in both the innings of that Test, albeit in a losing cause. That hurt. Of course, it did.

He also lost to the Lankans, in his fourth Test as captain (counting the one-off Adelaide Test), and his captaincy record stood at – Captained 4, drew 2, lost 2. Then, the tide turned, and his inspiring from-the-front leadership would continue. In the 19 tests he captained after the loss to Sri Lanka, he won 15 Tests, getting the better of Cook, Jason Holder, Williamson, Angelo Mathews, Hashim Amla and Mushfiqur Rahim. All these Tests were won by huge margins, which would mean ‘quite convincingly’.

The “Kumble effect” has been there of late, but Kohli’s effect on his teammates has been the main factor all along. The early impetus provided by Ravi Shastri must not be forgotten.

Take a look at the graph for a moment. The dotted ellipse indicates a slump, when he struggled to get to a half-century. The very first impression created would have been this: captaincy is affecting the young man’s batting. Perhaps it did. Only Kohli can shed light on this matter, should he ever choose to do so.

And then. After over 70 innings at the crease, he scored his first double hundred, an exact 200. This upped his batting average close to 50. A slump followed again…as he found it difficult to combat the Kiwis on home soil. But just as he had stunned one and all with the double century against the West Indies after a lean trot, he did an encore against the Kiwis. He went on to score two more – one against the Poms and the one against the Bangladeshis.

One of the Adelaide knocks could well have been converted to a sweet double hundred, had Kohli not begun to feel that he was running out of partners. India lost that Test by a (relatively) narrow margin of 48 runs. If things were different, that would have been wonderful indeed: a double hundred in a winning cause in his first-ever Test as captain, standing in for MS Dhoni. Sadly, it never happened, but that was simply to prepare him and the Indians for better things ahead.

 

Batsmen struggle to reach the 200-run mark, usually (In fact, this same writer has written about batsmen stranded on 199). In less than 20 innings, Kohli has scored four of them; the first three in the same year – 2016. His first Test score in 2017 was a double hundred. His batting average now has crossed the 50-run mark. Does it augur something for the forthcoming series against the Aussies?

When Kohli lost in Adelaide, it was to Michael Clarke, a much-senior and more-experienced player. Now, he takes on Steve Smith, an almost-exact contemporary. He crossed swords with him in Sydney as captain. Having trounced six Test-playing countries over the last 2-3 years, Kohli must be itching to put down the seventh – the team he encountered first as Test captain in 2014.

As the circle is closing, it is also heartening to note that Ajinkya Rahane (with Karun Nair close on his heels, with that big triple hundred in Chennai against the Englishmen), Wriddhiman Saha (made a bit more competitive by Parthiv Patel’s wonderful comeback as batsman-wicketkeeper) and Vijay (knowing well that Parthiv could always be looked upon as a specialist opening batsman in the company of KL Rahul), have all upped their game against the Bangladeshis. The dour sheet-anchor Pujara lives up to his reputation as a successor to the Wall, Rahul Dravid.

With Saha’s ‘Wriddhi’ (growth) over time, Murali’s determination to contribute to India’s ‘Vijay’ (victory), Rahane’s ‘Ajinkya’ (invincible) temperament against bowlers of all stripes and colours, and captain Kohli’s ‘Virat’ (massive) appetite for runs, it is also a luxury for Team India to feel that there are maestros waiting in the wings in case someone is down with flu or pulls a muscle at any time – Rohit Sharma, Karun Nair et al. About our bowlers…well, some other time.

Often some things seem too good to be true. But if it is true that they are very good, perhaps that is a good thing to believe in. Of course, we Indians are superstitious at times. We do not wish to heap too much praise on mortals, no matter how talented and accomplished they are, lest we tempt fate.

Nazar lag jaati hain,’ as we say…But if you would also read the piece published on HW earlier – Kohli, Northug and Ibrahimovic…you will agree that God and Fortune favour the brave, and protect them from any ‘nazar’...

Bring them on, those guys from Down Under.

 

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G Venkatesh (born 1972) is a senior lecturer in Energy and Environment, at Karlstad University in S...

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