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IPL 2014: What's wrong with Virat Kohli?

Virat Kohli’s lack of form in the IPL should not surprise us. It has been a long time coming. Over the last couple of years Kohli has made us forget that no cricketer, not even the statistical freak that was Sir Donald Bradman, has ever avoided the ups and downs of form.

In Bradman’s case it was only that the base was higher. Excluding the Bodyline series, for which he averaged 56.75, Bradman’s series averages ranged from 66.85 in 1928 to 178.75 in 1947. From year-to-year over his career, Bradman averages varied from 30 in 1936 (he played just 2 Tests) to 402 in 1932 (he played 3 Tests). Those are big gaps.

It has not been a happy IPL for Virat Kohli so far. BCCI

It has not been a happy IPL for Virat Kohli so far. BCCI

When it comes to Kohli, he has spoiled us by ransacking runs in every format of the game over the last 24 months, averaging 55.90 in Tests, 55.24 in ODIs and 54.71 in T20 internationals. Given how much cricket India plays, such consistency is as a rare as the Kohinoor diamond. So good as Kohli been that several former India cricketers have already predicted he could break Sachin Tendulkar’s records, despite him trailing the recently-retired great by almost 13,000 runs and 30 centuries in the one-day format.

But such a run simply had to end. Unfortunately for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, it has happened at the worst possible time. For all the attention Yuvraj Singh has been getting, it is Kohli who has had the worse run. He is tied with Gautam Gambhir for the most ducks in this IPL with three. He hasn’t scored a half-century in nine games, is averaging 18 and has a strike-rate a few ticks better than Varun Aaron. It’s a large part of the reason RCB find themselves second from the bottom in the table. Their captain and leader simply hasn’t delivered.

The most worrying part of Kohli’s dip in form is how often he has been caught behind the wicket early in his innings, no matter what kind of shot he is playing. Against Kings XI Punjab in Bangalore, Kohli tried to flick a leg-side delivery but could only edge it. Against Sunrisers Hyderabad, also in Bangalore, he nicked a wide ball trying to play the cut. Against Mumbai Indians in Dubai, he simply steered a delivery angled across him straight to slip.

That the pressure is telling on him is evident from Kohli’s decision to open the innings in RCB’s last match, which they lost in stunning fashion to Rajasthan Royals. Kohli made just four – his fifth single digit score of the season – and his dismissal was a variation of the same theme. Having faced a few too many dot balls, he slashed Kane Richardson to third man.

It is a sign of a player used to imposing himself on the game but failing to do so. His last five scores are now a palindrome – 4, 0, 35, 0, 4 - and it does not make for pretty reading.

The faint silver lining is that the season is not quite over yet. Despite being seventh in the table, Royal Challengers trail fourth-placed Kolkata Knight Riders by only two points with five games to go. If they can somehow put together three or four wins on the bounce, it could put some pressure on the three teams above them.

Bangalore has the bowling to do that but they cannot wait for Kohli to rediscover the player he has been the last two years, especially with news emerging that Chris Gayle might miss the rest of the IPL 7. A good place for Kohli to start would be to ignore the hectic nature of T20 cricket and allow the game to come to him rather than trying to grab it and choke the life out of it.

Updated Date: May 14, 2014 08:03 AM

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