IPL 2022: Spotlight on Kohli as RCB take on Sunrisers

Fans are waiting to see whether the former India captain can break free from the protracted run of low scores, writes Ayaz Memon

By Ayaz Memon

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In seven matches so far, Virat Kohli has scored just 119 runs.
In seven matches so far, Virat Kohli has scored just 119 runs.

Published: Sat 23 Apr 2022, 12:48 AM

The spotlight will be on former captain Virat Kohli in this match between the Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad. For most of the time he has played in the IPL, he had been in the spotlight either for his failure to win the IPL title as RCB captain or for his unrivalled consistency as a batsman.

This time, however, the fans are waiting to see whether the former India captain can break free from the protracted run of low scores he has had this season.

In seven matches so far, Kohli has just 119 runs to his credit. Normally, he features in the top 10 (if not top 5) run-makers at any stage of the tournament. Currently, he is languishing at number 37.

Most seasons, he has made news with his incandescent, intrepid batting. This year, most talk has centred around his struggles in the middle. Every season, he has been RCB’s mainstay (along with AB de Villiers), this year he’s been a laggard out and out.

It’s not just the low scores, but also the manner of dismissals that have got his legions of fans as well as his team concerned.

Twice he has been run out, which is an unusual occurrence in his case, and twice he’s been dismissed for ducks because of poor stroke selection, including in the previous match against Lucknow Super Giants. He’s had one decent knock of 48, but in all others, he’s looked in a maze of uncertainty and a far cry from the dashing batsman rated as the world’s best just a few years ago.

It’s not just this IPL season that his form has been sluggish. Kohli has gone 100 matches and more than two years — across formats and tournaments — without a century, which is an extraordinary decline for a man who would slam tons for fun.

It’s difficult to pinpoint what’s going wrong for Kohli. The reasons could range from the pressure of living long periods of time in the bio-bubbles, heavy workload, enormous pressure of expectations because of his formidable record and some unsavoury controversies last season.

Former Indian chief coach Ravi Shastri, who worked for a long while in tandem with Kohli when he was captain, believes the star player needs to take a break.

“His brain is fried because he’s been in the thick of it, as player and captain taking on untold pressure for 6-7 years,” says Shastri.

“I believe he’s got another 6-7 years of cricket in him if he can switch off and come back after a while.”

Sound advice maybe, but it’s not going to help RCB this season. Still seeking their first title, they would want their talismanic players to come good as soon as possible.

Ironically, Kohli’s indifferent form hasn’t stymied RCB’s progress. Currently, level with frontrunners Gujarat Titans on points, they are number two only on Net Run Rate.

Yet, the team have not been entirely convincing. Some senior players have struck rich form, Faf du Plessis, Dinesh Karthik and Josh Hazlewood among the leading ones, but there is a need for greater cohesive effort if the team have to get to the playoffs. To this end, Kohli’s contribution is critical.

Tonight’s match against Sunrisers Hyderabad is an opportunity for Kohli to show that he has been energized for this challenge. SRH have a fine pace attack, arguably the best in the league, which will test RCB’s top order. Umran Malik versus Du Plessis or Kohli promises to be the highlight of the match. That’s not the end of the pace threat from SRH as they also have Bhuvneshwar Kumar and T Natarajan, and for spin, Washington Sundar.

Four wins in a row have made SRH the team to fear.

Their bowling is top rate, and the batting’s not far behind with Abhishek Sharma, Rahul Tripathi, Aiden Markram and Nicholas Pooran all among runs. RCB have to be at their best to stop this in-form team in their tracks.

A big contribution from Kohli would go a long way in achieving this. A match-winning one would signal a major step in his redemption.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator

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