IPL 2018: Virat Kohli's uncharacteristic deceleration after AB de Villiers' wicket shows his lack of faith in the middle order

For Kohli-Bangalore to be inducted into the Dhoni-Chennai and Diego Maradona-Boca Juniors league, the skipper should start showing more faith in his troops, which could be the key to bringing home that elusive trophy.

Rohit Sankar, Apr 18, 2018 11:37:29 IST

A strike rate of 148.39 making 92 in a run chase of 214 in 20 overs with the next highest score being 19.

That kind of a strike rate is among the top-10 career strike rates in T20Is (minimum of 300 runs). Yet dissect Kohli's innings and approach it in parts and you will see that he, as much as the other batsmen, was responsible for Royal Challengers Bangalore's meek submission against Mumbai Indians on Tuesday.

Chasing 214, everybody knew that Kohli would have to bring out his chasing A-game for RCB to stand a chance. After all AB de Villiers in the second innings wasn't too great and his record against Mumbai Indians bowlers - Krunal Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah in particular - would not have evoked much confidence.

RCB captain Virat Kohli in action against Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium. Sportzpics

RCB captain Virat Kohli in action against Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium. Sportzpics

The RCB skipper began pompously as he returned to the top of the order with Brendon McCullum dropping out for Corey Anderson. The thinking behind Kohli opening the innings was valid. After all you want your best players to face the maximum number of overs in this format and with Kohli at No 3 and de Villiers at No 4, that really wasn't happening.

Three fours flew off his bat in the first couple of overs as he outscored the supposed aggressor at the top - Quinton de Kock. When the South African wicketkeeper departed to Mitchell McCleneghan and de Villiers fell to the same bowler two balls later, Kohli had crossed his 20 in 14 balls.

RCB had strengthened their middle order after the last game with Anderson replacing McCullum and Sarfaraz Khan coming in for Pawan Negi. Mandeep Singh, the architect of one of RCB’s finest run chases, against Kolkata Knight Riders in 2015, and Chris Woakes completed a more than formidable middle order.

Sure, you may not trust any one of them to go hammer and tongs and chase down a target single-handedly but for all the talk, Anderson owned the record for the fastest ODI hundred for some time and Mandeep and Sarfaraz aren't fans of batting in a shell either. Woakes, perhaps the least daunting of the four, had had a terrific ODI series against Australia with the bat, scoring 170, with two half-centuries, in four matches, at a strike rate of 117.24.

Even if it was unlikely that even two of them would do the job, with Kohli still at the crease, a successful run chase was definitely a realistic possibility. Yet, the moment his favourite mate and trusted ally, de Villiers, departed, Kohli reined in his aggression and went into a shell.

In the next 15 balls - between de Villiers and Mandeep's dismissals - Kohli scored a mere 14 runs. More than the strike rate dropping to less than 100 in a 200-plus run chase, it was his lack of intent, a word he so frequently expressed with passion and fierceness during the tour of South Africa three months ago, that stood out.

Perhaps the skipper had surrendered to the fact that the best option was to play out the 20 overs and ensure that the net run rate didn't suffer. But how often do teams stop believing after the fall of the first two wickets in a T20 game? More importantly, what message does Kohli send to his middle order young guns - the Mandeeps and Sarfaraz Khans - when he resigns to the belief that their hopes are done and dusted after 28 balls into the run chase?

Playing for the net run rate in a league when you lose hopes of winning is a known tactic. But the point here is how quickly Kohli lost his belief. When he had four strong batsmen coming in after de Villiers, why would he look to play out 20 overs, especially with RCB’s less-than-impressive start to the season?

All of these point to an alarming lack of confidence in his middle order. If that is the case, shouldn't something have been done at the auctions? Shouldn't they have at least tried Parthiv Patel or Manan Vohra or Moeen Ali in the middle order if Kohli believes RCB do not have anyone trustworthy beyond the top-four (or top-three in this case)?

The shocking lack of intent continued till he reached a half-century in 41 balls. By then, RCB’s hopes had all but sunk with them needing 107 in 33 balls with four wickets remaining. The middle order had succumbed meekly and although that remains a genuine worry, the bigger one should be how Kohli's negative attitude must have rubbed off on the men following de Villiers in the batting order.

After he crossed his half-century and RCB’s hopes had disappeared down the drain, Kohli upped the ante. From 50 off 41 (a strike rate of 121.95), Kohli raced to 92 in 62 balls, the final 42 runs coming off 21 balls (a strike rate of 200). If only he had showed that kind of intent when the likes of Mandeep and Sarfaraz were at the crease!

The RCB skipper knocked off his 5,000th run for the franchise when on 49 on Tuesday, the most any player has had with any one team in T20s. His rare connect with the fans and the manner in which he defines the franchise after more than a decade of association shows the mutual respect and trust.

But after years of toiling, RCB need a trophy to show. They have had some wonderful players over the years, Kohli being the biggest of them, but as much as the skipper’s 5,000-plus runs, his tactical nous is also something RCB need now. The kind of adulation MS Dhoni earns at Chennai stems from a rather successful partnership with the franchise. For Kohli-Bangalore to be inducted into the Dhoni-Chennai and Diego Maradona-Boca Juniors league, the skipper should start showing more faith in his troops, which could be the key to bringing home that elusive trophy.

Updated Date: Apr 18, 2018 11:37:29 IST

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