There is no doubt that the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) 2017 has been as exciting as ever. It has witnessed centuries, hat-tricks, some exceptional catches, run outs and every other thing that sums up an excellent T20 tournament. Yet it has remained incomplete. The World No. 1 T20 batsman and India’s arguably best modern-day cricketer, Virat Kohli, has not even been close to his lethal best. After missing the initial games for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) due to a shoulder injury, he made a superb comeback when he scored 62 against Mumbai Indians. However, that knock has been followed by a series of low scores. In the last six innings he has played for RCB, he just has one fifty.
With two more group matches to go, RCB are placed at the bottom of the table with a mere five points. The tournament for last year’s runners’ up is sadly finished. Despite having a top-class batting line-up of Chris Gayle, Kohli, AB de Villiers and Shane Watson, RCB set a record of the lowest-ever IPL total when they were bowled out for 49 runs.
This time last year, Kohli was unstoppable when he had become the first cricketer to smash four centuries in an IPL season. The IPL 2017 was meant to be crucial for the Indian side, keeping in mind the ICC Champions Trophy, which is scheduled to begin just after the T20 tournament. When Indian T20 festival had taken off in April, there was no confirmation if India would participate in the Champions Trophy. India had been at loggerheads with the International Cricket Council (ICC) in recent weeks over the revenue and governance models. The 2014 Constitution, that gave India a larger share, was changed and some of the board officials didn’t like it as it would reduce India’s share.
The Indian board had even threatened to pull off from the tournament.
However, on Sunday during the BCCI’s Special General Meeting in Delhi, the board gave the go-ahead for the Indian team to play in the ICC event. The same evening, Kohli, who will lead the defending champions in the Champions Trophy in England, recorded yet another disappointing score in the ongoing tenth edition of the IPL. In an attempt to go for a “glamorous” shot, Kohli had cheaply thrown away his wicket having scored just five runs.
With tremendous experience in the IPL as a batsman and a captain, Kohli was expected to be more responsible, especially when his side has just not been able to click. His batting in the recent games has received criticisms; but his harshest critic has been Former Indian captain, Sunil Gavaskar, who has not hesitated to express his anger towards the RCB captain.
“Your main batsmen went for the glamour shots instead of looking to play proper cricketing shots. Get the boundary. Between a four and a six the difference is two runs. Because you hit the ball in the air (for six), the risk percentage goes up to a 100. The first thing he should be doing is look himself in the mirror. The shot he played (against KXIP) wasn’t exactly a great shot. The shot he played at Eden Gardens (against KKR) wasn’t a great shot.
“He (Kohli) has got to say to himself that he is the captain. He has got to stay there. He is not in form so stay there and he should work himself with proper cricketing shots then widen the scope of the shots,” Gavaskar said, lashing out at Kohli.
Regardless of his current form, it is safe to say that Kohli having mastered the 50-over format will surely step up for India in the champions Trophy. However, the fact that he averaged less than 10 in the five innings he had batted during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy earlier this year at home and ever since then he has not managed to revive his form is a concern for him and Team India. In the last couple of years, Kohli’s form was hard to believe. He had scored double centuries in Tests in four back-to-back series; he piled up a record 973 runs in IPL 2016; he brought India in the top 3 of the ODI team rankings and more importantly, he has led from the front by scoring an abundance of runs.
Kohli and England have not been the best of friends. His struggle on the English soil is not hidden anymore and that makes an out-of-form Kohli’s situation even more tricky prior to the ICC event. Having played 10 ODIs in England, Kohli has a century and half-century each and has averaged less than 40. With the absence of KL Rahul on the top, BCCI has picked Shikhar Dhawan ahead of an in-form Gautam Gambhir. Dhawan will open innings along with Ajinkya Rahane, who also has not shown his best cricket in the IPL 2017. In the last 10 innings for Rising Pune Supergiants, Rahane has not recorded a single fifty.
Although Dhawan, who will be making a comeback in the blue jersey for India, has been in a good touch, his consistency problems might be an issue for India. Kohli, Rahane and Dhawan will combine together for India’s top-order and it will be crucial for the three to deliver with the bat.
While Dhawan and Rahane have had performed decently in England, Kohli will never forget his nightmare England series in 2014. After the series, Kohli had revealed about “going down mentally” when the results did not go his way. No matter how aggressive and strong Kohli portrays to be, he, after all, he is also a normal human being with emotions, even if his game at times suggests him being from some other planet. It is important for Kohli to keep the IPL 2017 results and his below par performance in the Test series in his mind and start fresh for the vital Champions Trophy.