Virat Kohli last hit a century in November 2019 and ever since the coronavirus pandemic, he has not hit a single century in any format.
741 days! Two years and 11 days since Virat Kohli last scored a century in any format in cricket. It seems unbelievable that the ultimate run-machine of the modern era is now in the midst of a so-called ‘slump’. Just imagine this. Ever since the coronavirus pandemic cast a pall on the world in 2020, Kohli has not raised his bat for a century. A tough tour of New Zealand, in which he averaged under 40 in all formats, was the start of the tough phase.
In an ideal world, Kohli would have been racking up centuries and tons just for fun. In 2019, Kohli averaged 68 in Tests and 59.86 in ODIs. He had hit a total of seven centuries in the year 2019 which was the continuation of a phenomenal trend in the sport. In 2017 and 2018, he hit a total of 11 centuries in both formats combined. Had he continued in this vein in 2020 and 2021, Kohli would now be in the 90s when it came to international tons. He could have broken Sachin Tendulkar’s tally of most ODI tons. Currently, Kohli is on 43 ODI tons while Tendulkar has 51.
Perhaps, the years 2020 and 2021 have seen bowlers potentially work out Kohli and his technique. The common mode of dismissal for Virat Kohli in this entire period has been caught or bowled. In the bowled dismissals, he has missed deliveries that have come into the batsman predominantly. Whenever he has mistimed the delivery, it has been off a short length. When he middled the ball, it took some outstanding catches to dismiss him. the trend of the bowlers to Virat Kohli is simple. Bowl fuller, get it to swing back in, keep it around off stump and the dismissals will come frequently. This is the trend in ODIs.
When it comes to Test cricket, Kohli’s technique has been ruthlessly exposed. Once again, the template for bowlers has been bowling the ball fuller, getting some inward movement, and then keeping it around the off stump. When it comes to the inward movement, bowlers exposed a chink in Kohli’s technique. The former India Twenty20 skipper played slightly outside the line to be trapped LBW to deliveries coming in during the 2020 New Zealand Test series and even during the ICC World Test Championship final in Southampton in 2021.
In the series against England, James Anderson once again exposed the technical issue with Kohli. Every bowler knows that Kohli likes to drive. The urge to play at everything and drive at a full ball outside off has proven to be his undoing in Test cricket.
His numbers in ODIs and T20Is are simply magnificent. Recently, he went past 10,000 runs in Twenty20 cricket. Despite a poor performance by Royal Challengers Bangalore in both IPL 2020 and 2021, Kohli still held his ground and managed to score runs. But, in Tests, his numbers have taken a hit. The ruthlessness of Test match bowlers is such that they will continue to expose Kohli’s weakness.
Kohli might just want to get into a good mental space and sort out the technical difficulties in his own way. An average of 19 in 2020 and 29.8 in 2021 has reduced his career Test average from 55 to 51. But, even now, Kohli averages over 50 in all three formats and he remains the only one to be on that list.
A break after the ICC World T20 and most of the New Zealand series might just help Kohli in rediscovering the touch. There is an important tour of South Africa coming up. India has never won a Test series in South Africa and this is the best chance for India to break the jinx. For that to happen, they will have to ensure Kohli is at his absolute best in South Africa with the bat.
When one looks at the decade of 2010 to 2019, Kohli’s record has been phenomenal. He is the only individual to go past 20,000 runs combined in all three formats of the game. In century count, average, and number of runs accumulated, Kohli has been simply phenomenal. The last two years have shown that he is mortal.
In 2017, it was written that Kohli would surpass Tendulkar’s record of 51 ODI tons and have 65 tons by the time he retires at the age of 40. But, in the last two years, this slump has made it slightly difficult. Kohli might struggle to break Tendulkar’s feat in Tests. But, the sheer magnitude of his runs and contributions is enough to term this current slump an ‘aberration’.