ROHIT SANKAR | 10 OCTOBER, 2018
The Threat of Virat Kohli, at Home
Teams know that to get Virat Kohli out, you need a good ball.
Most International teams visiting India now acknowledge that the country is a Waterloo for them. Beating India in India is getting so immensely difficult that teams come to India with the dream of not winning, but levelling a Test series. Unfortunately, even that is a far-fetched dream in these times.
Since the beginning of 2015, India have played 22 Tests at home, losing just one and winning 16 of them! This gives them a win/loss ratio of 16 at home, which virtually means the home country is a fortress for them to drown their overseas woes and boost the batting averages of some of their batsmen.
It wouldn't be wrong to say that no country has been this dominant at home in the past few years atl east. The pioneer of this immensely dominant home record is none other than the skipper himself who has been a telling factor in most of India's home wins.
As Virat Kohli stepped out at Rajkot to face a ruptured West Indian bowling attack withered by a fearless 18-year old debutant at the top, a century was there for the taking. The difference between Virat Kohli and the remaining in the ‘Big Four’ (Steven Smith, Joe Root and Kane Williamson being the others) is that he makes most of toothless attacks.
Teams know that to get Virat Kohli out, you need a good ball. You cannot walk in and bowl hoping he would play a false shot to a poor ball, because that does not happen with Kohli. The problem with that for most visiting teams is on good tracks with average bowlers, the chances of delivering a ball good enough for Virat Kohli is close to zilch.
The 139 at Rajkot was elegant, chanceless, even beautiful to watch despite the overpowering effect of Prithvi Shaw at the top. In 2018, Kohli has a massive 1913 runs across formats. No one has even come close to him with the man next in the list - Joe Root - being 350 runs away. He has seen hundreds this year, also the best among every batsmen out there.
In 2017 and the year before too, Virat Kohli had topped the aggregate run chart (across formats) which shows an unbelievable consistency across formats. Since 2016, he has amassed 3292 runs at an average of 70.04 with 13 hundreds, each of these numbers being a record in itself.
He raced to a 24th Test hundred, becoming the second quickest to the landmark after Don Bradman. If his Test numbers are Bradman-esque, his home numbers are even more jaw-dropping.
He has played 33 Tests at home, scoring 3060 runs at an average of 65.10 with 11 of his 24 hundreds coming here. Compare this to a career average of 54.66 and you see just how good he is at home. In 53 innings’ at home, he has crossed the 50-run mark a whopping 21 times which means that you are likely to witness a Virat Kohli half-century plus score every 2.5 innings at home.
The numbers have gotten progressively better too.
The last three years Kohli has been stupendous at home in Test cricket. In fact, since 2014, he has been racking up runs for fun everywhere. In England, he conquered his final frontier by acing the James Anderson threat despite India losing the series 4-1.
But for visiting teams, Virat Kohli gives zero tolerance. At home he is a beast waiting to pounce onto his opponents with unrelenting calmness and composure.
For weaker teams like the Windies, Kohli is an even bigger threat. Three teams he has excelled against at home are the Windies, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. In 2 innings’ against the Tigers, Kohli averages 121 at a One-Day like strike rate of 85. Against Sri Lanka at home, he has amassed 610 runs in 5 innings’ at 152.50 and a strike rate of 82.21. The strike rate isn't usually a factor in Test cricket but to show how easy run-scoring has been for the Indian skipper against these teams, it is quintessential to point out the strike rate.
The Windies have bowled at Kohli in 5 innings’ and have conceded 314 runs. An average of 62.80 comes after completing his first ton against them at home, an attempt that comes after three fifty plus scores. The humungous averages, the tendency to occupy the crease and dominate attacks on familiar pitches back home make Kohli an insanely huge threat for weaker teams in India. West Indies have their task cut out for Hyderabad, the venue of the second Test, particularly with Kohli hitting his straps in the very first innings. If it's any consolation for the Windies bowlers, they are unlikely to have to bowl to him more than once, courtesy their faltering batting line-up.