Still in good touch, why has Virat Kohli not found runs?
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Till that point, he had been scarily consistent right through the year, averaging over 60 in Tests, over 70 in ODIs and nearly 50 in Twenty20 internationals. In 34 innings across the three formats, he had been dismissed in single figures only three times.
He has added only one more single-digit score since then, but his visits to the crease in the first two Tests have only yielded 19, 14*, 19 and 7. But at no point has Kohli looked out of form, in the traditional sense of the phrase.
During the Indian team's net session at the Eden Gardens practice wickets on Monday, Kohli certainly looked like he was in form. He looked comfortably balanced in that combative, upright stance of his, and his bat came down nice and straight when he defended the quicks. His feet moved nimbly out of the crease when he played the spinners: in a straight line when he sent an R Ashwin delivery whistling to the long off fence, and diagonally when he made himself room to drive Pragyan Ojha inside-out. He middled pretty much everything.
This was more or less the case in each of his innings at Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Till the moment he was dismissed, Kohli was seldom troubled by individual deliveries. But the English bowlers kept him quiet over long sequences of deliveries. At the Motera, James Anderson and Graeme Swann kept him on 0 for 25 balls. In the first innings at the Wankhede, he played only nine scoring shots in 55 balls, all bowled by Swann and Monty Panesar.
That innings ended with a soft dismissal - an airy drive caught at short cover. In the second innings, when Panesar and Swann were looking almost unplayable, Kohli was out to a delivery that didn't even have a chance to gain assistance from the pitch. The full toss caught him low on the bat with a dull thud, turning it in his hands, and the ball looped into mid off's hands.
It was probably Kohli's ugliest-looking dismissal of the series, but also perhaps the unluckiest. The shot was on, and India were struggling to find such scoring opportunities, and it somehow went completely awry. The result: a third failure in four innings. The other was a not out score in a small fourth innings chase. Kohli isn't out of form, but he will be if he doesn't make runs soon.
Due a biggie
The way he has looked at the crease, in the middle and in the nets, suggests that he might be due a big score. This might well be the case. But he might have to see out dry spells, with few scoring opportunities, like the ones at Ahmedabad and in the first innings in Mumbai, and pick the right moments to release the pressure.
Simpler still, he could borrow a trick from Cheteshwar Pujara, and be a little more aware of scoring opportunities against the spinners. Pujara defends spinners when he has to, but quite often he waits a moment to tuck the ball behind square leg or glide it wide of point for a single. Kohli's field of vision seems narrower, alert to the loose ball but not so much to the ball slightly off line or length to work for singles. This was supposed to be a problem area for the visiting batsmen; Kohli could have a mild case of it too.