One of the painful experiences of this edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been to watch the unfolding batting collapse of Royal Challengers Bangalore, especially the early dismissals of skipper Virat Kohli.
The skipper, arguably the best batsman in world cricket, is a crowd favourite all over India. It matters little whether he plays in Mumbai against Mumbai, Delhi against Delhi or in Kolkata against KKR, a sizable number of spectators enthusiastically cheer for him.
Of course in Bengaluru it is a little different, in that the whole city cheers for this superb batsman! Which is why the disintegration of this master batsman is extremely painful to watch.
Like the rest of his millions of supporters, Kohli seems baffled when he gets out unexpectedly. The man who could do no wrong last season when he belted a record 973 runs to power Royal Challengers Bangalore to the final, looks all at sea this year.
Form, a fickle companion at best, seems to have deserted him. Of course this must be made with a qualification – he is still RCB’s top scorer with his 235 runs from eight matches 19 runs more than the next highest run getter, Kedar Jadhav’s 216 from 10 matches.
The relative failure of Kohli should be seen from the high standards he set for himself. After all, even in this season of failure, he has three scores of above 50. Of course this is not a patch on the four centuries he smashed last season while compiling those record-breaking 973 runs.
But what makes his inability to turn on those big scores more vexing for RCB is the complete lack of form among the other batsmen. Had any one of the others been a lot more successful, Kohli would have had the cushion to play himself in and regain confidence.
But AB de Villiers (206 runs from eight matches), Chris Gayle (152 runs from seven matches), Shane Watson (67 runs from seven), Mandeep Singh (136 from 10), Travis Head (74 from five) and Jadhav have collectively batted so poorly that RCB have been pushovers in most matches.
It is obvious that neither Kohli nor the team is enjoying the current situation. If anything they look tense and their body language at the crease is so wrong. Bowlers like Sandeep Sharma and Axar Patel whom Kohli, Gayle, ABD and Watson would be creaming on most days, are actually bullying them. And that’s the sad part.
The super batsman aura that Kohli had acquired over the years, particularly the past two years, looks shattered not as much by form as his approach. Perhaps there is a certain amount of mental and physical fatigue that has crept into the persona of this great warrior. After all he has been battling the odds for over a decade now.
Perhaps the best thing for Kohli to do at this stage would be to take a short, complete break from cricket. A three- to four-week holiday would recharge the batteries of this champion batsman and bring him back sharper, more focused and hungry to get back to the top of his game.
Off-spinner Ravichandra Ashwin made the right and smart move to opt out of playing this year’s IPL. There is no doubt that he will return fresh and strong for the battles ahead.
Perhaps Kolhi should take a leaf out of his book. There is nothing that he can do for RCB in their next two matches — against KKR at home and DD in Delhi — which will change their status this year. RCB with just two wins from 12 matches, the least among the franchises, look like finishing as the basement team of IPL 2017.
Sure Kohli’s fans would love him to play all games and may be even run into some hefty runs in these last two matches. Who wouldn’t? But would it benefit Kohli or Indian cricket in the long run? Maybe it would be better for him to de-stress by taking a break and returning as fresh as possible for the Champions Trophy or whichever event India play next.
Every Indian would want him to return to peak form. That’s when Kohli gets going, with that magnificent stroke-play, in-your-face aggression and terrific running between the wickets. There is no better sight than a free-flowing Kohli at the peak of his batting prowess in modern cricket.
Updated Date: May 07, 2017 13:48 PM