English struggles return to haunt captain Kohli

English struggles return to haunt captain Kohli

In 2014, he netted a grand 134 runs in 10 innings while falling to Anderson four times

England's James Anderson celebrates taking the wicket of India's Virat Kohli. Credit: Reuters Photo

India pinned great hopes on Virat Kohli to lift them out of early trouble on the opening day at Headingley, but the skipper flattered to deceive once again, being dismissed by his nemesis James Anderson for the seventh time in 23 Tests. While Kohli, the captain, has enjoyed some stirring moments with the Lord's win being the high-point of India's campaign, it has been 2014 once again for him as batsman. 

In 2014, he netted a grand 134 runs in 10 innings while falling to Anderson four times. After a successful 2018 trip, when he amassed 593 runs with two hundreds and three half-centuries, the old habits appear to have crept back into his game.

Kohli's 2018 conquest of Anderson was characterised by two significant aspects. There was a certain technical adjustment in his game but more importantly, he was a lot more patient.

After failing to dismiss even once in 2018, Anderson was effusive in his praise of Kohli, who had not only outplayed him but outsmarted him as well.  

Read: Kohli adamant India 'won't back down' against England

“I had some success against him in 2014 and then he came back a completely different player in 2018 and was incredible,” Anderson had said. “He left the ball really well in 2018. The first time he came over (in 2014), when I was bowling out-swingers, he might chase it early on and that brought the edge and the slips into play. He left it a lot better and he was a lot more patient (in 2018). He waited for you to bowl at him and then he’s very strong off his legs, so he could score freely.”

In the ongoing series, the prolific pacer has dismissed Kohli twice in four innings in the same manner as he did seven years ago.  

So far as the technical tweak is concerned in 2018, Kohli got his back and across movement right. His trigger movement was to take his back leg from the leg to middle-stump while allowing the front leg to shift freely just outside off-stump, allowing him to avoid being an lbw candidate to the incoming delivery.

Besides the back-and-across shuffle, he also made sure he played as close to his body as possible instead of reaching out to the balls. A conscious decision to tuck his ego in his pockets even if he looked like being dominated by the bowlers eventually earned him handsome returns, further consolidating his credentials as one of the modern-day greats.       

Cut to the present, both the changes that helped him master the conditions look to have deserted him again. The back-and-across movement is still there but, as Sunil Gavaskar points out, it has become a bit more exaggerated, which takes his back leg to the off-stump and consequently drags his front leg somewhere near where the fifth or sixth stump would be, forcing him to play balls that he was leaving in 2014. A touch of impatience is also apparent as the bat is nowhere close to his body.    

Former England skipper Michael Vaughan weighed in with his views after Kohli's low scores at Lord's. 

“Really good bowling, not good batting," he began. "When he had success in English conditions, he knew exactly where his off-stump was. His trigger movement goes over to the off-stump and he knows where it is."

“So far in this series, I just wonder whether he lost his off-stump because he is going over quite a long way and his head is going with him. Because of that, I think he thinks his off-stump is around the fourth and fifth stump line. He needs to get back into alignment," Vaughan added.

An in-form Kohli is crucial to India's fortunes and the sooner he finds his touch back, it is better for his team. Perhaps he would do well, as suggested by Gavaskar again, to emulate his role model Sachin Tendulkar, who took the off-side out of the equation in the Sydney Test on India's 2013-14 tour after repeatedly falling while chasing balls in the corridor outside off-stump. Tendulkar's innings of 241 not out was an object lesson in overcoming one's own demons while swallowing ego. Kohli has done it once. There is no reason why he can't do it again.


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