Ahmedabad, March 5: After a two-day finish of the third Test, England skipper Joe Root said it robbed the spectators a chance to see the engrossing battle between Virat Kohli and James Anderson. Root was alluding more to the short nature of the Motera Test than the personal rivalry between the two great players.
And if you take it in an individual context too, the Kohli vs Anderson contest offered restricted view in this four-match series. Until India's first innings in the fourth Test, Kohli has faced 52 balls from Anderson and scored 11 runs without getting dismissed and in that 37 balls were bowled to him in the first Test at Chennai.
Kohli has faced fewer deliveries from Anderson only in that traumatic 2014 away series - 50 balls for 19 runs and was jettisoned 4 times. Against Anderson in 2012, Kohli negated 81 balls (made 23 runs), 112 balls in 2016 (home, made 69 runs) and 270 balls (and made 114 runs) in 2018 (away).
The difference in 2021 is that Kohli never lasted long enough to have a duel with Anderson apart from those two innings at the MA Chidambaram Stadium and it is not entirely Anderson's doing either. The series offered a microcosm of the travails of Kohli since that double hundred against Bangladesh in late 2019. The Indian captain has not scored an international hundred after that despite crossing the 50 a few times across the formats.
Kohli has not looked either jerky or shaky at the crease all this while. In the second Test at Chennai, Moeen Ali bowled him with a gem that spun some miles from outside the off-stump to beat his defence. You don't get that kind of ball often, right? In the on-going Test at Motera, Ben Stokes caught the edge of his bat with a brute, the ball kicking-up from the good length. Perhaps, a lesser batsman than Kohli could not have snicked it.
It is also not that he has not tried to get out of the rut. Once he was clean bowled by Moeen in the first innings of the second Test attempting that expansive drive, Kohli curbed his instinct to drive. It might have been immensely tough for him not to play a shot that fetched bagful runs against spinners in the past. The result was a 96-run alliance with R Ashwin.
"I have taken a lot of pride in improving myself very quickly and correcting mistakes. That is probably something I haven't done in the past. On a few occasions, I've been rigid. If I make an error, I make sure in the very next innings, I iron it out. I understand I need to be batting out there in the middle as much as possible," Kohli had said after the second Test.
It is precisely the approach great players adopt. Remember the Sachin Tendulkar episode! During the 2003-04 tour to Australia, Tendulkar was dismissed playing shots on the off-side and the Mumbaikar eschewed all the shots on the off-side during the Sydney Test to register a double hundred. Kohli's reward for shunning the risk was not as elaborate but it reflected his flaming desire to be back among the big runs.
It should not be forgotten that since January 2020, Kohli has only played 7 Tests, 9 ODIs and as many T20Is and welcomed a baby girl to his family earlier this year. In this passage, his average in Tests is only marginally above 28, 47.9 in ODIs and just over 36 in T20Is, but they give us an even paler look because of some astronomical numbers he had achieved since the 2012-13 season and remained on the peak for very long.
It could be just that Kohli, an intense cricketer, is refocussing on his craft. At times, a champion finding his way back is as riveting a sight as he is on top of the game.
The story after his 0 in the first innings of the 4th Test against England
1 12th Test duck.
2 5th duck against England and 3rd duck in his last 7 innings against England.
3. It was his second duck of the series.
4. Ben Stokes joined Pat Cummins, Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad and James Andersonas bowlers who dismissed Kohli 5 times.
5. This is only the second series in which Kohli was dismissed for 2 ducks. It happened previously in 2014 in England.
6. This was Kohli's 8th duck as India Test captain and equalled MS Dhoni's unwanted record.