Don't let him know the target: How to stop an unfairly good Virat Kohli and give bowlers a chance
In this shortest form of the game, people often express concerns about getting the balance right between bat and ball. But here we have a special case - a total imbalance between Virat Kohli and ball.
What are we going to do about Virat Kohli? He dominated the recently-concluded World T20 to such an extent that he was unanimously named Player of the Tournament for amassing 273 runs at an average of 136.5 and a strike rate of almost 147.
He’s now taken that form straight into the IPL, charging towards the top of the run-scoring list like some kind of enraged orange cap-craving mythical creature, and despite Royal Challengers Bangalore having played the fewest matches so far. He’s scored 381 runs from six innings, at an average of 76.2 and a strike rate of 140, including his first ever T20 century.
While there are other batsmen on Kohli’s level in Test cricket, he is rapidly becoming peerless in the limited over forms of the game, particularly T20. David Warner may be currently just ahead of Kohli in the IPL run-scoring table, but Warner’s international T20 record barely registers when compared to Kohli’s.
In this shortest form of the game, people often express concerns about getting the balance right between bat and ball. But here we have a special case - a total imbalance between Virat and ball.
So how can we restore parity and give the bowlers of the IPL and, indeed, the rest of the cricketing world some kind of chance against The Great and Powerful Kohli?
As always, in situations when a batsman is dominating the game, thoughts turn to Sir Donald Bradman, who was infamously curtailed by Douglas Jardine’s Bodyline tactics (aka Leg Theory) in the 1932/33 Ashes. We’re now in a different era, of course. Kohli has more protection, more practice and more shots at his disposal when facing short-pitched bowling than The Don ever had. And, of course, Kohli has far more T20 experience than Bradman, who notoriously never played a single IPL tournament.
We’re on the right path, however. Perhaps bowlers might be given a chance against Kohli if they were allowed to throw one ball an over at him. Not every ball. That would be overkill. But a surprise delivery once per over with bent arm might prove to be the 2016 equivalent of the 1932 short ball. Elbow Theory, if you will.
Alternatively, why not just let each team choose their opposition’s batting order? Being forced to bat at eleven might not completely stop Kohli, but it would certainly slow him down. Plus, who could resist the opportunity to see Kane Richardson and Varun Aaron opening the batting for Royal Challengers Bangalore?
But it’s debatable whether even Elbow Theory or batting at eleven would be sufficient to stop Kohli during a run chase. Because, if Kohli is an irresistible force batting first in T20s, he’s an irresistible force meeting an immovable object when he bats second. (This, by the way, is the answer to the great philosophical question of what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object. Answer: it almost inevitably successfully chases down the opposition total.)
Kohli’s T20 international record perhaps highlights his run-chasing prowess best - he averages 40 with a strike rate of 138 batting first, but 92 with a strike rate of 133 batting second. Ninety-freaking-two. That’s an astonishing number.
And that average climbs even further to a ludicrous 123 at a strike rate of 131 when it comes to successful run chases. Which, let’s face it, most of them are.
Now, come on. This is silly stuff. What chance do bowlers have against that kind of behaviour?
Fortunately, there’s an easy solution that would give bowlers some hope against a chasing Virat Kohli. Simply don’t let him know what the target is. If he doesn’t know what the target is, then he’s effectively back to batting in the style of a first innings. Which is still extremely good. But it’s not unfairly good.
Oh, sure. There’d have to be some changes to how the scoreboards are programmed if we’re going to prevent Kohli from seeing his opponent’s score while he’s on the field. Perhaps he might even have to wear some kind of blinkers or blindfold to prevent him from tallying their runs in his head. In which case, the crowds would also have to be instructed to be as quiet as possible, so as to not give away any clues to possible boundaries or wickets. And his teammates would have to give him a heads up if the ball came his way in the field. And, of course, those same teammates would also have to promise not to tell him the target between innings or during the run chase.
Yes, it’s a lot of hassle to make all these changes just to keep the opposition score hidden from Kohli. But isn’t it worth it to make the game just that little bit fairer?
After all, what’s the alternative? Allow Kohli to continue, unimpeded, playing by the same rules as everybody else? Rules that we’ve already seen just permit him to dominate this form of the game?
Are we supposed to merely sit back and enjoy his astonishing strokeplay and glowering intensity as he crushes whichever bowling attack is sent to deal with him next? Is that your idea of fun?
Actually, yeah. It’s not bad, is it?
Forget I said anything. Continue as you were, Virat.
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