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Why Virat Kohli failed to score a triple century against Bangladesh

by Naked Cricket

And the precise match he will go on to score it
Long before Virat Kohli had even reached his double century, there was a poll on Star Sports – it had to do with his triple century. Anyone who was watching Kohli bat was in no doubt of the triple century. It was just a matter of time. Either before tea or after, but come it would.
On his way, there had been minor hurdles, more like irritants, the odd appeal; he had even been given out. But he reviewed it. It looked out but it couldn’t be – there was that triple for the taking. On being reviewed, the ball was missing the stumps, the umpire had to eat his decision.
However, there was this small matter that everyone was unaware of – there was no way Kohli could make a triple century, because if he did, he would have had to take the drastic step of dropping himself from the following Test match, the first against Australia.
Why? If there’s one thing that Kohli is, it’s that he’s fair to a fault. Dropping triple centurion, Karun Nair, was not an easy decision. Yet in Kohli’s mind, it was the correct call. Made to accommodate India’s middle order mainstay, vice-captain, and proven match winner, Ajinkya Rahane.
While both Kohli and Kumble had explained their reasons to Nair, this decision did not sit easily on Kohli. He admitted to being greatly pained by it, confessing to his teammates that life and cricket can be so unfair – and that dropping Nair was his toughest decision as captain.
He hoped that it did not scar Nair for life, and hoped he would play for India again, sooner rather than later. At the same time, the dressing room was abuzz with the one-off Bangladesh Test being a great opportunity for a maiden triple century – for who else but the captain.
It was then that Kohli had admitted that if he were to make a triple century, he would drop himself from the following Test match. He said, “I want to feel Karun Nair’s pain…I want to know what it feels like to dropped after scoring a triple century…it must be so deflating…yet it is also a great lesson in resilience to rise gain, to feel the crushing pain and then comeback...isn’t that what heroes are made of?”
While Virat Kohli is a man of his word, and there was no way he was not going to stick to his guns if he scored a triple century, it was on coach Anil Kumble’s insistence that there was a change in plans.
Kumble had convinced Kohli to not score a triple. This way he would not go against his word and also play the crucial first Test against Australia.
In the first innings, Kohli’s awareness, of both his batting and the DRS (Decision Review System), had been quite unsurpassed. He had already made a canny call which overturned a LBW decision. So naturally it took everyone unawares when Kohli trooped off when given out LBW with two reviews still in the bag.
How could Kohli not know the ball was pitching outside off? How could Kohli not review his key wicket, after all, an early declaration hinged on how long he batted?
Finally, it was all down to not scoring that triple century. And being fair to himself, the team and the other triple centurion, Karun Nair.
Whether Virat Kohli will ever allow himself to score a triple century nobody knows. But he was heard whispering to nobody in particular, “Maybe I’ll only score a triple in my last Test.”
Karun Nair shook his head in disbelief, as if to say, “what have I done?”
(However plausible this may sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)
First published here


The comings and goings of Virat Kohli

by Naked Cricket

Virat Kohli had had enough of Virat Kohli. The umpire had given him out LBW, not even India’s two reviews could stop him from walking away. At 204, he looked like a man thankful for his innings, wanting to just switch off the game for a bit.
By walking off, and not using a review, Kohli had just decided to play captain, umpire and executioner, all rolled in one. If Kohli had cut his first ball for four, he had decided to now cut himself to size on his last ball.
Why a batsman on song, going through the form and daresay, fortune of his life, would not use a review will be baffling to most people – Virat Kohli is not most people. He had now been given out LBW for the second time in his innings. On the first occasion, he reviewed and the decision was overturned, somewhat surprisingly for Kohli, who appeared almost relieved then. Kohli was on 180 then.
19 runs later, on the cusp of a fourth double century in four successive series, Virat Kohli decided to just go for it – mishit over covers for four, from 199 to 203, beyond Bradman and Dravid’s record of double centuries in three successive series.
Cricket is often just about runs and the men who make them. Those who had watched Kohli make those 203, will remember how they were made, those wrists, that fearlessness, from that first boundary to the last one – the unstoppable surge, the intelligent risks, lucky breaks, but most of all, the will to walk away when he thought he was out.
At best of times, Virat Kohli hates to get out. His love to bat on and bat long almost exceeds his love to impulsively review a decision. When given out, the child in Virat snaps, cries and howls. He can be in single digits, or he can be on a hundred and some, it’s usually that same reaction – as if his work is far from done, there is this mountain to not just climb but climb through that scientific route that only he knows.
By getting out, it’s as if he’s aware that everyone has been denied their treat – to watch this great mountaineer climb a mountain on a flat field. It was his task to deliver, and while there’s both an awareness and acknowledgment that others in the team can climb the mountain, Kohli wants to be there on the climb – with his teammates. Often showing them the way, as he did with Ajinkya Rahane on a comeback.
Before the match, Virat had already undertaken the climb with his deputy, Ajinkya. He had backed him in the press, repeating, that the mountains climbed by Rahane in the past were not forgotten. Virat had backed his return over the triple centurion. As had the coach, Anil Kumble. Together it was a uniform team voice.
Rahane walked in to keep Kohli company at 3/234, he was finding his touch, a tad tentative. With his captain’s ascent, he too started the climb up the mountain. Nothing like a good hike in good company, the climb flattens, urging you up like a tonic. 223 runs later when they parted, Kohli had achieved much for both himself and Rahane. While Rahane fell short of a century, these 82 runs will be priceless as he prepares to climb into Australia in a fortnight.
As for Kohli, the climb from 50 to 100 to 150 and then 200 happened almost organically. It was preordained. There was talk of a triple hundred as there is talk of a toss before the match. In our collective mind space, Kohli had already scanned various summits.
In doing so, he was combining various forces of past Indian greats – Virender Sehwag’s ruthless means to score big and score fast; Sachin Tendulkar’s unquenchable thirst for centuries; and Rahul Dravid’s demeanour – to know when the show’s over and it’s time to walk off.
That this match is being played in VVS Laxman’s hometown, Hyderabad, is apt. One look at that wristwork that rushed Kohli to a hundred from 96, and you know, this innings was a toast to something far greater than meets the eye.

First published here


“Will try and score 400 next time” – Karun Nair

by Naked Cricket

Even before a ball could be bowled in the one off Test between India and Bangladesh, the buzz was about Ajinkya Rahane’s return and Karun Nair’s omission from the Test team. While Nair had scored an unbeaten triple century (303*) in his last Test innings, it was argued by both coach, Anil Kumble and captain, Virat Kohli that Rahane’s stellar work in the last two years had not been forgotten.

While it is extremely unfortunate for Nair to be left out, he has taken it bravely, on the chin, so to speak. The 25 year old Karnataka batsman has a deep respect for Ajinkya Rahane, and has gone on to admit that if he was in charge of selections, he too would’ve picked Rahane. While not undermining his triple hundred, he did feel that Rahane was a proven performer across all conditions. “I’m lucky to have got a chance because of his (Rahane’s) injury but now that he is fit, I’m glad to see him return to the side. He is a match winner and even though I scored a match winning triple century, I do not have a body of work as vast as his…once it is comparable, it will be easier to look at selections in a more objective manner”

All things aside, how much does one have to score to seal a spot in this Indian team? Karun Nair feels that even 300 is not enough. “As you know, triple hundreds are quite common these days, especially in home conditions against indifferent bowling attacks. The real Test will be for me to show my stamina, I will try and score 400 next time”

When asked if he thought that 400 would seal his spot, he answered in the negative, “No…I don’t think so, even if I score 400, and if Rohit Sharma is fit and available for selection in the next match, he should be picked before me. Rohit is much more senior and a proven match winner across formats. Also I don’t think I can compare myself to his talent and potential. Captain has great regard for him too. He is set to do big things for the country in the Test arena”

When Karun Nair will play for the country is anybody’s guess but this is not dampening the middle order batsman’s spirits who feels that just spending time in the dressing room with seniors like Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane is a blessing in disguise for him – “every day I learn something new, there is a great atmosphere in the dressing room. Something that no amount of time in the middle can teach you. Right now I am focused on carefully observing the seniors and picking a trick or two on how to handle myself spending long hours on the bench”

When asked if India’s other triple centurion, Virender Sehwag, had spoken to him, he said, “yes, on Twitter. He made fun of me. But that is Viru Bhai. He’s an original and it is a privilege to be mocked by him. I’m really looking forward to be made fun of by him when I make 400 runs. I can almost anticipate him tweeting that he will have to come out of retirement to keep me company and returning my favour of keeping him company in the 300 Indians’ club”.

However plausible this may sound, this is largely a work of fiction.


Are there shades of Rohit Sharma in KL Rahul?

by Naked Cricket

When you do a search for Rohit Sharma on ESPN cricinfo, as many as six options crop up. Not just that, there are two RG Sharmas as well. The one we’re looking for though is born in 1987. Soon to be 30 years old this year. When did that happen?

Rohit made his Test debut in November, 2013, since then he has plated 21 Tests. By now it is well documented that he started off with a century on Test debut, followed by another in his second innings. There hasn’t been another since.

KL Rahul has already played 12 Tests. He too got off the blocks fast, with a century in only his second Test. So far he has four centuries. While Rohit’s Test average is 37, Rahul’s is a shade over 40. Much like his senior, Rahul comes with much promise and potential. Much like Rohit, Rahul’s batsmanship is very pleasing to the eye. And daresay, much like Roht, Rahul could be India’s next big thing – in ODIs and T20s.

The similarities don’t stop there. Already in his short career, Rahul has shown that he can be very susceptible to injuries. Both batsmen have a huge fanboy in the Indian captain.

Both batsmen have the ability to go up, over the top, out of the ground. They’re the type of batsmen that fill grounds with people, with a buzz. They’re also the type of batsmen, that very rarely make exceptional Test batsmen but always make the selectors punt on them – forever making their backers live in that eternally optimistic state of “what if?”

Come 2017, both batsmen will be expected to make the IPL great again.

It’s very early to say that KL Rahul will not make an exceptional Test batsman but as an opener he has 8 single digit scores in 19 innings. Rohit has 14 single digit scores in 36 innings. Their Test dismissals often appear soft, and can leave you more often than not baffled. Just as their sixes that resemble shooting stars.

While a still recuperating Rohit will not play the Bangladesh Test, KL Rahul will open the innings. Whether opening is the best position for him is debatable. Squeezing him in the middle order is next to impossible. While India has sometimes sacrificed a fifth bowler and either dropped or made Cheteshwar Pujara open the batting to accommodate Rohit Sharma, it remains to what extent India will go with KL Rahul.

Right now however, he is the chosen one of Indian cricket. And will continue to be so for a while. It’s an onus that doesn’t sit easy on the best of batsmen. KL Rahul will do well to speak with Rohit, who knows, it could be a chat that ends up helping both batsmen. After all, it takes one to know one.

First day, first over, after leaving two balls outside off, KL Rahul opts for the cover drive, plays on and is dismissed for his 9th single digit score.

It could be a painfully long sit on the bench for both KL Rahul and Karun Nair, watching others score runs which could have been theirs. For Rahul, however, there will be plenty of chances to score more Test runs. As for Nair, he might need to speak with Manoj Tiwary very soon. It’s going to be a long home season on the bench. After Ajinkya Rahane, it could well be Rohit Sharma who will be preferred to him. Sometimes, you just can never score enough runs to beat people’s perceptions. No matter what the format.