Watching Virat Kohli bat in the recent series against England was akin to watching a man walk on air. His innings of 235 in the Mumbai test was the high point of a consistently outstanding run of scores that extended into a further double-hundred in the one-off test against Bangladesh at the start of February. It was a brilliant show of batsmanship from one of the giants of the modern game and helped his team to a comfortable series victory.
Kohli is wonderful to watch with an innate style and classiness to his batting. His cover drive is one of the great sites in the game and he has that ability so familiar in sub-continental batsmen to seemingly be able to manipulate the ball to any part of the ground with a simple flick of the wrists. Such was his control at the crease that it almost came as a surprise when eventually the opposition bowlers managed to find a chink in his armour and claim his wicket.
Contrast that to his first innings dismissal in the current test versus Australia in Bengaluru. Following scores of 0 and 13 in the first test he was dismissed leg before by Nathan Lyon attempting to leave a ball that would have crashed into his leg stump. It was the type of dismissal that speaks of a clouded mind and comes only with uncertainty and a dent in a usually unshakable confidence. It’s impossible to imagine the Kohli of the England series getting stuck so indecisively in two minds.
So in the space of less than a month what has changed? The answer is very little. His dismissal in the first innings of the first test was the type that often befalls a man in almost too good form, pushing out at a ball that could have been left. With his side struggling in the second innings he was bowled shouldering arms, expecting turn in the first indication that things might not be quite so smooth this series.
Confidence is a fragile thing for batsmen. Captaining India and being their best batsmen brings immense pressure and with his side massively under the cosh in a home series they were expected to dominate a dip in confidence is hardly surprising. Of course Kohli is far too good and far too much of a class act for his uncertainty to last, but in a strange way it’s refreshing to see that even the best in the world are human.
As an amateur cricketer I know all too well how quickly a good run can turn bad. I’ve played innings where it feels like I’ve been batting with a toothpick rather than a bat. When in-form everything feels instinctive. You watch the ball, your feet are in position and the ball comes out the middle of the bat without a second thought. Everything just flows. When out of form everything feels laboured. There is a desperation to feel bat on ball. You think about every movement and the ball seems to reach you so much quicker.
I’ve had some good moments as a batsman. I’m proud to say I’ve managed to pick up a couple of hundreds over the years, but I can’t say I have ever come close to feeling what it must be like to be Virat Kohli at his best. To say he is in a different class would be like saying Big Ben is a bigger timepiece than my wristwatch. Sport has a way of unifying even the greatest with the amateur player though and for a brief moment on Saturday morning as I watched the ball thud into the Indian captain’s pad and he confusedly called for the review I felt a definite kinship.
Sport is brilliant like that.