ROHIT SANKAR | 13 FEBRUARY, 2018
Kohli’s Phenomenal Form Helps India Mask Wobbly Batting Belly
The no.4 spot has been an area of major concern for India
Virat Kohli has been in outrageous form ever since setting foot in the Rainbow Nation. A splendid hundred at Centurion in the second Test has been overshadowed by his mind-boggling form in the limited-overs leg so far.
He has amassed 318 runs in three matches, having been dismissed just a single time. The previous highest total in the country in a bilateral series is Ricky Ponting's 283 in a seven-match series. Kohli has surpassed that without breaking a bead of sweat and looks set to double his tally in the remaining three games.
What the skipper's sensational form has meant is that India’s otherwise ordinary batting line-up and flaws in the batting have gone unnoticed. For instance, Kohli ran 100 of his 160 runs at Newlands while the second highest scorer, Shikhar Dhawan, with 76 runs, made just 28 of his runs in singles, doubles and triples.
Among top run getters in the series, Kohli leads the way as expected with 318 runs and Dhawan comes a far second with 162 in three matches. Not other Indian batsmen even have more than 100 runs in the series. Rohit Sharma, one of their most prominent ODI players, at home has made scores of 20, 15 and 0 with his average in the country continuing to hover just above 10.
The no.4 spot has been an area of major concern for India with Shreyas Iyer, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik and MS Dhoni all trying their luck at the position. Rahane seemed to have owned it with a brilliant half-century in the first ODI but played a rather ordinary shot in the third ODI to raise concerns. He might still get three more games to push his case but as of now it is still up for grabs.
The lower middle-order comprising of Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya have had little to do with Kohli in ominous touch but if he fails, things can still go awry for India like it did in the Champions Trophy final against Pakistan last year.
Since January last year, Kohli’s 1778 runs includes a whopping eight hundreds and a further seven half-centuries. This has come at a stupendous average of 88.90. Dhawan and Rohit have been good too averaging 51 and 63.23 respectively, but aside from the top three, the others have had little to do.
Rohit has been remarkable at home but his shoddy show here is putting Kohli under pressure to deliver everytime he walks out to bat. He has lived up to the needs, though, making two hundreds in this series in three matches. Go back a bit further and you see that he has four centuries in his last six ODIs. That is a staggering achievement for someone who had zero hundreds in South Africa in ODIs before this series.
It is his amazing intensity that has contributed to his purple patch.
“I want to play this kind of cricket even when I am 34-35. That's why I train so much because I am a guy who likes to play with intensity. Once that is gone, I don't know what I am going to do on the field," Kohli had said after his unbeaten knock of 160.
"I try to train as much as I can. Keep a check on my diet. Those things pay off on days like these. When the team needs it, and you stand up, and you are able to pull through. As an athlete you crave for days like these," he added.
While the fitness levels have certainly gone up a notch in the Indian team of late, his teammates might want to take cue from his intensity which aids his batting. Not everybody are similar though and what works for Kohli may not work for a Rahane or a Dhoni.
Fact is South Africa's listless attack has made this series rather lop-sided and Kohli’s screaming form has meant that India’s wobbly belly of the batting line-up remains fairly untested. Pandya and Jadhav haven't had much opportunities and what has come their way haven't been grabbed. This hasn't been much different from playing Sri Lanka at home with South Africa missing several big names in their batting but the return of AB de Villiers should boost the Proteas and also test India more.