Two years after his horror tour of England in 2014, Virat Kohli admitted in an interview with Skysports that it was his sheer desperation to succeed that led to his downfall four years ago. Kohli is back in England for a Test series, but this time around he has come with a different mindset. "I'm just looking to having a good time here and it is all about the team doing well" he told reporters the minute he landed in England.
From Kohli's statement, it is evident that the man who carries the burden of one billion people is feeling more relaxed and his primary goal surrounds the team rather his own individual performance. But at the same time, all great players are keen to get the record straight and Kohli will undoubtedly have a burning desire to straighten his record in England.
Kohli will be aware of the fact that India needs runs from his willow and England will know shutting him down will go a long way in restricting the highly fancied Indian batting order.
As Dale Steyn said ‘to kill the snake you need cut the head of the snake' — Kohli is the head. He was far superior to any of his peers in South Africa six months ago and his record in Australia is alluring. It is England that he needs to conquer, if not for his sake, then for his aura.
In the eye of the public, Kohli is already amongst the greatest batsmen India has produced, but unlike Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sunil Gavaskar, Kohli is still yet to add "Runs in England" on his CV. Until he prospers in white clothing against the red ball in the land much reputed for swing and seam bowlers, the cricketing eternity will not put him on the same pedestal as the other legends of the game.
At 29, Kohli is at the peak of his powers and leads a team that has enormous talent, depth, and experience. He has no psychological barriers against the opponents after accumulating over 700 runs against them in his own backyard around 18 months ago, but it is rather of tackling the conditions.
James Anderson, who tortured Kohli in England last time around, will be keen to continue his dominance over the master batsman. Anderson felt the full brunt of Kohli's willow in India 18 months ago, but rather than showering praise, Anderson left the tour stating "he is good in his own conditions".
The remark was brushed aside at the time by Kohli, but there is no doubt those words would have been stored in the back of his mind. Speak to those close to the Indian skipper, and it is his pure competitive spirit that distinguishes him from the other fine batsmen in the world. This time around, against an ageing Anderson lacking support from the other end, he will not get a better chance to conquer the English conditions.
Importantly, Kohli has addressed and overcome the technical flaws in his game from the last tour. The Indian captain was a sitting duck against the moving ball in 2014, as he constantly edged the full balls in the channel to slip cordon.
"The problem with me was that I was expecting inswingers too much and opened up my hip a lot more than I should have done. I was constantly looking for the inswinger and was in no position to counter the outswing." he told Nasser Hussain in 2016 in an interview with Sky Sports.
The minute he returned to India in 2014, Kohli spent 10 consecutive days consulting with Sachin Tendulkar and batting coach, Sanjay Bangar to overcome his flaws. To ensure Kohli was not getting squared up, he had to ensure that in his trigger movement his right toe was pointing towards point, rather than cover-point, his guard had to change and his stance had to be widened to counter the moving ball.
Ever since tinkering with his technique, Kohli has gone on a runs spree and his new positive mindset has helped him enormously to tackle the some of the best bowlers in their own backyard.
It is also worth noting that apart from the first Test in 2014, the conditions in England aided swing and seam bowling, however, this time around the British Isles are facing a heat wave, the Test matches are starting at the back of the summer and the dry nature of the pitches means Kohli will endure conditions that will be more benign than last time around.
Add to that, India has a pair of decent opening batsmen and a No 3 that can shield him against the new ball. Above all, he knows his game better than ever before. Unlike last time around Kohli has arrived in England a month before the first Test, he is familiar to the surroundings, the nature of the pitches and is aware what his team can achieve.
Everyone in England is already calling this the ‘Indian Summer' and Kohli knows as a batsman, as a leader, he will never get a better opportunity to defy the critics. As he stated on his first day "I'm just looking to have fun".
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