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Is Virat Kohli ready to do the dirty work again?

by Gaurav Sethi

Virat Kohli's Test match: Played at one he should've let go, and let go one he should've played at. With two tiny scores from Kohli, the team was out of their comfort zone. It was as if the sole breadwinner of the family had left the others to fend for themselves. What should they do? Scrap and scratch for a few runs but bat time?
Or should they, do what their leader would’ve done - what would their leader have done?
Off late, the predictability has gone out of Kohli’s Test game, he can be both the sustainer and destroyer - he has clocked a draw, he has rocked many a double.
Evidently, the team was clueless. They were mindless, and they batted like headless chickens. Without Kohli in the middle, no batsman was prepared to take on a leadership role. Perhaps, there is no leadership after Kohli. Such has been Kohli’s dominance, with mind, bat and word, the others dare not step in. Or speak up.
It’s all too obvious in the middle during DRS chat-ups. Kohli speaks, asks, the others appear to be shoe-gazing. So Kohli replies to Kohli - “Should we take the review, Virat?”“Yes, Virat, I think we should take this review.” So the team takes the review.
On a rough Day 2, when India was zapped out for 105, India went on to blunder, one mindless review after another. There was no belief in them, they appeared to be taken more out of boredom. Virat was bored.
If indications of the first Test are anything to go by, Kohli’s single-mindedness could be challenged as the series chugs along. Already before this match, he had decided to play his trusted batsman (albeit going through a poor run), Ajinkya Rahane against Bangladesh. Nothing in that Test, or in this one, indicated Rahane had regained his composure.
His last 10 innings have seen one 50, an 82 against Bangladesh. In his nine other innings, his highest is 28. Losing his ODI spot hasn’t helped matters. He’s lost his touch catching and fielding close-in. While Kohli was vocal in his defence of Rahane (as was coach Anil Kumble) - it’s a good time to take a reality check. If the pivotal position of a batting No. 3 can be compromised for an alleged loss of form, why not a far more flexible No.5, where Rahane bats?
Will Kohli now revert to a safer option to pad the batting some more with Karun Nair at 6, so as to accommodate Rahane in the side - and that too at the cost of a fifth bowler? Against Australia, in Pune, India played five bowlers but Ishant Sharma and Jayant Yadav were mere passengers.
Playing four bowlers will only overburden Ashwin, Jadeja and Umesh, after an already long home stretch. In Pune, fresh from his fastest 250 wickets’ world record, Ashwin looked jaded. Clearly, he and Jadeja need more backup, fresher fingers, longer breaks between spells.
After Kohli’s backing of Rahane is his questionable backing of KL Rahul, more so on top of the order - even though he top scored for India, he’s way too loose to open the innings on a sustained basis. Then there’s the uncanny similarities with Rohit Sharma - KL Rahul has already played 14 Tests.
He too got off the blocks fast, with a century in only his second Test. While Rohit’s Test average is 37, Rahul’s is 38. 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 Rohit, Rahul could be India’s next big thing - in ODIs and T20s.
The similarities don’t end 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.
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?”
Before the end of this series, there could be some drastic shuffling of the batting order, as there once was to accommodate Rohit Sharma. Brace yourself for KL Rahul at 3 and KL Rahul at 5 as the series goes on.
Opening with Cheteshwar Pujara could be a definite long term plan; he and Murali Vijay have been prolific batting together, sustaining the innings, while Rahul and Vijay have failed to as an opening pair.
0-1 down, 3 to go, there’s much to play for the No. 1 Test team. But a different India will have to turn up. In more ways than one. Yet again, it’s up to Virat Kohli. Can he be ruthless with his team yet again?

First published here

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