Virat Kohli is undoubtedly the best batsman in the world at the moment and is one of the better players of spin bowling in India.
But his recent struggles against spin bowling has raised some questions ahead of India’s five-match Test series against England starting August 1.
Kohli was dismissed 8 times by spinners out of the 14 innings that he played for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 11th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) earlier this year.
His nightmare against spin in England continued as he was dismissed by spinners in all the three ODI innings. Kohli was bamboozled twice by Adil Rashid and became Moeen Ali’s victim once.
In fact, Kohli’s strike-rate nose dived against spinners during the series. Kohli faced 75 balls and managed to score at a strike-rate of 79 while it increased to 100 against pacers. Kohli boasts of a career striker rate of 92.12.
Kohli’s struggles are not good signs for India who are eyeing their first Test series victory in England since 2007.
On India’s previous tour of England, Kohli had a disastrous outing where he was troubled by James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Back then, he scored 1, 8, 25, 0, 39, 28, 0, 7, 6 and 20 in the five Tests and finished the series with an average of 13.50.
In the 2014 Test series, Besides Anderson and Broad, there was another man who troubled India’s batting line-up: off spinner Moeen Ali. He took 19 wickets and made a major impact as England bounced back from defeat at Lord’s to win three matches. This time, he could be a major threat again given Kohli’s weakness against slower bowlers.
Kohli’s problems against spin should be a cause for concern in the Indian camp.
During the 2018 IPL, Kohli’s woes against spin hurt Royal Challengers Bangalore big time.
The 29-year-old averaged just 24.75 against spinners in this edition whereas between 2013 to 2017 he got out to them just 6 times in 72 innings averaging over 170 with a strike rate of over 138.
“I haven’t seen Virat Kohli struggle against spin so much or generally to get starts in this season. The fluency has been missing a little bit, whether it’s lack of cricket before coming into the tournament I’m not sure. But it’s not been the same,” Ajit Agarkar, who is one of the experts on ESPN Cricinfo, said.
Last year, Kohli did not get out to spinners in 10 innings he played but the story was completely different this year.
Finger spinners got his wicket 5 times out of the 8 dismissals in this edition. Former England off-spinner Graeme Swann feels Kohli may have suffered because of the lack of quality leg-spinners in first-class and Test cricket these days.
“I don’t actually know why. Maybe it’s because not many leg-spinners have played first-class cricket or Tests recently that have allowed the batsmen to be exposed to googlies. Because it’s very strange that two of the best players in the world – Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers – seem to be both having problems picking the googlies,” Graeme Swann had said earlier this year.
The loss marked the second season in succession when RCB failed get past the league stage. This season they finished with 8 losses from 14 games while last year they had finished dead last with 10 losses from 14 matches.
Even though Kohli has had a tough time against spin bowlers but his overall form with bat is superb otherwise. With scores of 20*, 47, 43, 75, 45 and 71 (3 T20Is and 3 ODIs) against England suggest that the Indian captain has come prepared this time and with a mission — win Test series in England.
It is likely Kohli will storm back and dominate England’s spinners and pacers alike. He is a class-act and was in superb touch in South Africa before taking a short break. He got back into action during the IPL where he looked a little rusty to start off. In England, he was far from his fluent best but was still good enough to finish as the second highest run-scorer in the ODI series.
Even the best need to iron out flaws sometimes and ironically, the only visible chink in Kohli’s armour at the moment is spin – but there is no reason why he cannot fight back to dominate the slower bowlers once again come August.
News credit : Indiatoday