Kochi: As India lurched from one setback to another last year and were criticised for not planning for the transition phase, there was one man who simply motored on.
It was in 2012 that Virat Kohli, the junior and senior World Cup hero, who took the big step that under
lined his talent and consistency. With each innings, he became the crucial element that could carry the team forward. As the India players toiled in the heat and humidity of this coastal city on Sunday with fitness and fielding drills, Virat’s mind could well have been thinking of the batting nets on Saturday.
On a belter in Rajkot on Friday, he had missed out again due to an error outside off-stump early on. That robbed the team of that extra momentum that could have made matters easy instead of the nine-run defeat.
It has been a strange phase for the Delhi batsman of late. In the Tests versus England, he was beaten outside off, against spin and pace. A touch of anxiety seemed to creep into one of the most assured batsmen in the line-up.
The tentative approach again surfaced in the short ODI series against Pakistan. That none of the top order managed a fifty in that 1-2 defeat would be small consolation to him.
He had been so dominating in 2012 and was chosen the International Cricket Council ODI Player of the Year, a fair reward for Virat’s transformation through the year.
A defining maiden Test century in Adelaide lifted the gloom in the dressing room. A rousing, unbeaten 133 against Sri Lanka kept India’s hopes floating for a while in the tri-series. His sensational 183 to defeat Pakistan in the Asia Cup in Dhaka last March oozed class and confidence
There was a flurry of action around the India set-up. With Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman retiring and Sachin Tendulkar looking to sign off, he was picked to team up with Cheteshwar Pujara and fill that breach. Sunil Gavaskar wanted Virat to succeed MS Dhoni, struggling as a leader and weighed down by his workload.
Although Pujara waits to make his one-day debut and bring his magical Test and first class form to the shorter version, Virat regaining his touch would instantly give the team the anchor and enforcer it desperately needs.
His ODI record is enviable — 13 centuries and 21 fifties in 91 innings at a superb average of 49.54. That means he has scored at least a half-century every third innings.
Amidst his struggle against England, he produced a classic Test innings in Nagpur.
The century did not result in the victory India needed to draw the series, but showed what Virat needs to tide over the current phase where he has been bowled between bat and pad or been caught trying to hit.
“He is getting out outside offstump, this can happen to the best player,” said former India player and coach, Madan Lal. “The best way is to tell oneself ‘I won’t play that shot’ and score 30 or 40 like in Test cricket to overcome the problem.”
“His failures also stand out because he had such an outstanding season.”
Madan Lal also felt coach, Duncan Fletcher, should be more proactive.
“Dhoni will be thinking about his game, about the players. But the coach must talk to individuals.
“The big guns are not there but Gambhir, Raina and Yuvraj are all mature and experienced. Fletcher must tell them he doesn’t want these 30s and 40s and that he wants them to win matches.”