Indian cricket at this moment is probably at its shining best, with the team excelling colossally in all forms of the game. Be it achieving glory in the whites with the red ball, or decimating the opposition in the shorter formats; the last few years have witnessed a stellar rise of the men in blue. One big, or rather, the most prominent reason behind India’s transformation into a world dominating team, has been the sheer aura and charisma of someone special by the name of Virat Kohli. Kohli alone has brought about an absolute revolution in the perception of the sport, not just in India, but across the globe.
Based on just his complete determination to succeed at all costs, the Indian skipper has won millions of hearts across the entire cricketing fraternity. Be it his work ethics on the cricket field, where winning is his sole intention, or off it, where he sweats it out hard in the gym to iron out all flaws, Kohli currently stands out as an unconditional role model for all youngsters.
The First Man of Indian cricket has once again aced the cards by opting for a rigorous county circuit, barely days after the ongoing edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) comes to an end on May 27th. The speculation of Kohli participating in the County scene was vibrant for a while; before the same got confirmed on the dotted lines on Thursday.
The world’s number two Test batsman is all set to turn out for Surrey in the County Championship for the month of June. As a direct consequence of this decision, Kohli will miss the historic one-off Test against Afghanistan at home starting June 14th, but if one was to judge through a rational mindset, the pros of playing in the county circuit hold higher leverage than the Test against Afghanistan.
There is a specific motivation behind Kohli opting for a stint with Surrey, overstaying back at home post the IPL and unwinding in his free time. Later this year, India is all set to lock horns with England for a five-match Test series and that alone promises to be a thorough examination of this energetic, young and vibrant Indian team.
The last couple of tours to England have been forgettable episodes for the Indians, at least keeping in mind the Tests. Back in 2011, the MS Dhoni-led side was whitewashed 4-0 by an ever ruthless outfit led by Andrew Strauss. Things improved marginally on the side’s very next tour to the nation, but the result was once again disappointing.
In 2014, India were blanked 3-1 across five games, as the sole victory came at Lord’s, thanks to a memorable bowling display from Ishant Sharma. On the darker side, that Test series ended with India getting bundled for a paltry 94. To add to that, the last couple of Tests during India’s 2014 tour to England saw an abject surrender from the visitors, as both games ended within three days.
The stakes were reasonably high for Virat Kohli during that 2014 tour of England, as it was bound to be his first assignment in whites in that part of the globe.
Kohli back then was being termed as the next big thing in Test cricket, and the stage was slightly set for him to showcase his zeal in whites. Instead, a distressing eight weeks followed not just for Kohli alone, but all his fans across the globe. The Delhi dasher endured probably the most terrible phase of his cricketing career, as the English pacers, mainly James Anderson preyed on him.
Throughout the series, images of a visibly disturbed Kohli graced the front pages of newspapers and magazines, as the off stump woes riddled Kohli’s tour of England.
Innings after innings, the flamboyant stroke-maker was peppered with deliveries on the fifth stump, to which all he did was poke tentatively. The result was crushing for Kohli, as he ended up nicking deliveries in the slip cordon and returned with malignant figures.
With just 134 runs across ten innings on his maiden voyage to the shores of England, the series painted an awfully sorry portrait of Virat Kohli. Numerous questions were raised about Kohli’s ability to bat in testing conditions, with some greats blatantly branding Kohli, a “flat track bully”.
The tiger was cornered seriously in the summer of 2014 in England, but then, it’s a cornered tiger that attacks in the most vicious way. That was precisely what Kohli did right in the side’s next Test assignment, on the shores of Down Under. Barely four months after his nightmare tour of UK, Kohli stole the show in Australia with an eye-popping tally of 692 runs in four Test matches.
India might have lost that series, but just to witness the resurrection of Virat Kohli, was a victory keeping in mind the long-term prospects to be had. A clear change was witnessed in Kohli’s batting style, as his stance was far more upright and erect. There was a clear understanding of where his off stump was, and there was no nervous nibbling around that corridor of uncertainty.
A more confident Kohli was seen, who wasn’t afraid to hold back, and across those four games, Kohli churned out some memorable knocks. The change Kohli made to his batting technique, working in tandem with the then team director Ravi Shastri was visible, as the Indian batting sensation displayed a sense of domination in every aspect.
As India now return to England for a five-match episode, the stakes are once again high. In the last four years, Kohli has built a superman like stature for himself, with some unparalleled displays across formats.
The move from the Indian skipper to play in the county circuit is an absolute masterstroke. First and foremost, it will aid Kohli in acclimatizing to the conditions. For any batsman to succeed in daunting conditions like England, getting used to the external factors holds the key. In places like England, you just cannot go on any random day and expect to win games for your team. That is far from reality.
The three First Class games which Kohli will feature in for the month of June will be against some respected county teams of England, featuring some top players. One of Kohli’s counterparts could be Dale Steyn when Surrey takes on Hampshire in their fixture.
Even if Kohli returns with sorry numbers for the month of June, it will be least significant. What will be more important; will be the amount of time Kohli spends in the middle, under the gloomy overcast skies of UK, and against some serious swing bowlers. Just the move to turn out for Surrey for a number of games will surely help the Indian skipper in ironing out his flaws, be it his tentativeness around the off stump or develop more patience into his batting.
Knowing the hunger Kohli has for runs and for success, it would be least surprising to find out the batting icon topping the run charts during India’s upcoming tour of England.
The stage is well set for Kohli to stamp his authority on England, in the months to follow.