IPL 2022: Virat Kohli is struggling for form with nothing going the former RCB captain’s way. However, it is unlikely that Kohli will skip the cash-rich T20 tournament to prolong his international career.
Nothing is going Virat Kohli’s way in the Indian Premier League 2022. The Royal Challengers Bangalore star has scored just 128 runs in 9 matches at an average of 16, which is his worst performance in an IPL season since the inaugural edition in 2008.
On Tuesday, Virat Kohli had headed into the IPL 2022 match against Rajasthan Royals on the back of two golden ducks. The former captain was promoted to the top of the order to open with Faf du Plessis as RCB dropped Anuj Rawat after they were bundled out for just 68 against Sunrisers Hyderabad in their previous game. In a desperate bid to get the top-order going, RCB gave Virat Kohli back the opening spot where he has excelled, scoring 2759 runs at an average of 43.10, which is well above his career average of 36.
However, the move did not work as Kohli got out for 9 after a laboured stay in the middle. Facing up left-arm pace Trent Boult, Kohli nearly grabbed another duck when he flicked one to the leg-side but the ball fell short of the square leg fielder. Kohli got off the mark with a flick to the mid-wicket boundary and got an inside edge that beat Sanju Samson to the boundary. However, his luck ran out as early as the 2nd over. Kohli fell to a well-directed short ball from Prasidh Krishna for just 9 runs.
The poor form continued and all that Kohli could manage was a ‘wry smile. He stared at the pitch for a couple of seconds before taking the long walk back to the dressing room. The Pune crowd, which had come to see the modern-day great get off the poor form, went silent as Kohli looked helpless, seemingly not knowing what else he could do to end his lean patch.
TRYING TOO HARD?
There are worrying signs as Kohli has looked completely out of sorts in IPL 2022. In desperation to get runs, Kohli has fallen while chasing deliveries that are not there to be hit. Not in recent memory has the cricket world seen Kohli struggle as much as he did during his 10-ball stay at the MCA Stadium in Pune on Tuesday.
Questions are being asked of Kohli’s form in IPL 2022 and the sheer helplessness that has displayed in the middle has promoted experts and former cricketers to come up with different suggestions on how the star batter can end the lean patch. Kohli was seen having a chat with legendary Brian Lara, who is also the batting coach of SunRisers Hyderabad after RCB were bundled out for 68 last week.
Kohli seems to be trying harder and harder. It’s a given that the star batter has been putting in the hard yards in the training session. Head coach Sanjay Bangar stressed that Kohli is working hard on his batting at the nets and expressed confidence that his ward will return to form sooner than later.
However, Kohli’s lean patch and his body language with the bat in hand have looked alarming. Former cricketers Ravi Shastri and Kevin Pietersen suggested rest is the ideal way to help Kohli regain his touch. Shastri, last week, had said that Kohli was mentally overcooked and had his brain fried with all that has happened over the last 6 months. Kohli was sacked as ODI captain after he quit T20I captaincy. He had alleged miscommunication from the BCCI top brass and selectors and his claims were refuted later on.
On Tuesday, Shastri went a step ahead and suggested Kohli should also consider pulling out the IPL in the future if ‘push comes to shove’.
“If you want to play and do well for India, you have to draw the line where you want to take that break and the ideal break would be off-season where India is not playing and the only time India does not play is the IPL. Sometimes, you need to do that or tell the franchise I’ll only play the half. Pay me half, as simple as that. Those tough calls need to come if you want to reach the zenith of your profession as an international player,” Shastri said on Jatin Sapru’s YouTube channel.
CAN HE SKIP IPL?
However, is it easy for a player of Kohli’s stature to pull out of the IPL? Since the start of the cash-rich T20 league, the BCCI has always made sure the big names in Indian cricket have been part of the IPL barring the time when they have had to deal with injuries.
Take Rohit Sharma’s case for instance. The batting star was battling a serious case of a hamstring injury. He was omitted from India’s tour of Australia in 2020 and hours after the news broke out, Rohit came out to represent Mumbai Indians towards the business end of the tournament. Rohit was even part of the play-offs and led the team to the title even as there was plenty of speculation over his injury management and his absence from the tour of Australia.
Kohli, despite not being the captain anymore, is the central figure for RCB. It is evident from the way RCB handled their retentions. Despite Kohli stepping down from the leadership role, RCB gave the star batter the top bracket of Rs 15 crore.
Kohli has been the face of Royal Challengers Bangalore over the years and he is still loved and cherished by the fans of the franchise. The ‘Kohli, Kohli’ chants from the streets of Bengaluru during a pre-season event for announcing their new captain told us the story.
Having stressed he would want to finish his IPL career at Bengaluru, Kohli’s love for RCB is well-documented. And the star batter and RCB have a bond that extends beyond the cricket field. Having been one of the most marketable athletes over the years, Kohli has commercial deals with the franchise.
In 2021, RCB signed a strategic long-term deal with RCB and became the official kit partner of the franchise. The deal came at a time when Kohli was the brand ambassador of PUMA for its brand One8. Kohli was the first Indian sportsman to sign over Rs 100 crore deal for 8 years with the German sports brand in 2017. in fact, Kohli’s apparel brand ‘Wrogn’ was the principal sponsor of RCB in 2019.
The IPL loves the big names. And the big names need the IPL to stay relevant during one of the biggest cricket carnivals in India. MS Dhoni, who has been synonymous with CSK, has pushed on to play the IPL despite retiring from international cricket in 2020 with the CSK management claiming that the 40-year-old will continue to be part of the franchise in the future.
Kohli is, undoubtedly, going through one of the leanest patches of his career. However, it’s difficult to see the star batter giving up on IPL contract to prolong his international career. The former India captain has been resting from selected bilateral series and it’s likely that Kohli will continue doing so . For instance, the star batter did not play a Test and the T20I series against Sri Lanka earlier this year after a packed outing in South Africa and against West Indies at home.
Kohli’s lean patch has prolonged for over 3 years with the wait for his 71st international hundred frustratingly extending with every passing game. Kohli, 34, will certainly pick and choose the cricket series he would play in the future but his time away from the game is unlikely to come at the cost of IPL commitments.