Nothing goes Virat Kohli’s way in the 2022 Indian Premier League. 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 its inaugural edition in 2008.
On Tuesday, Virat Kohli was on his way to 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 when RCB dropped Anuj Rawat after being knocked out for just 68 against Sunrisers Hyderabad in their previous match. In a desperate bid to get the highest order going, RCB gave Virat Kohli back the opening spot where he excelled, scoring 2,759 runs at an average of 43.10, well above his career average of 36.
However, the move didn’t work like Kohli got out for 9 after a difficult stay in the middle. Facing Trent Boult with the left arm, Kohli nearly grabbed another duck as he hit one to the leg side, but the ball didn’t fall to the square-legged fielder. Kohli went off goal with a tap to the mid-wicket line and got an inside edge that beat Sanju Samson to the line. However, his luck ran out already at the 2nd. Kohli fell to a well-aimed short pass from Prasidh Krishna for just 9 runs.
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The bad form continued and all Kohli could do was a ‘wry smile’. He stared at the field for a few seconds before taking the long walk back to the locker room. The Pune crowd, who had come to see today’s greats emerge from poor form, fell silent as Kohli looked helpless, seemingly not knowing what else he could do to end his lean period.
TRY TOO HARD?
There are troubling signs as Kohli looked completely out of shape in IPL 2022. In desperation to get runs, Kohli has fallen while hunting for supplies that aren’t there to be hit. Not in recent memory has the cricketing world seen Kohli struggle as much as during his 10-ball sojourn at the MCA Stadium in Pune on Tuesday.
Questions are being raised about Kohli’s form in IPL 2022 and the sheer helplessness that has shown itself in the middle has prompted pundits and former cricketers to come up with several suggestions on how the star batter can end the meager patch. Kohli had a chat with the legendary Brian Lara, who is also the batting coach of SunRisers Hyderabad after RCB was knocked out for 68 last week.
Kohli seems to be trying harder and harder. It is a given that the star batter on the hard yards has been in the training sessions. Head coach Sanjay Bangar emphasized that Kohli is working hard on his battle at the nets and expressed confidence that his division will soon get back into shape.
BREAK FOR KOHLi?
Kohli’s skinny spot and his club-in-hand body language, however, looked alarming. Former cricketers Ravi Shastri and Kevin Pietersen suggested rest is the ideal way to help Kohli regain his touch. Shastri had said that last week… Kohli was mentally overcooked and had his brains baked with everything that had happened in the past 6 months. Kohli was sacked as ODI captain after leaving his captaincy at T20I. He alleged miscommunication from the BCCI toppers and selectors and his claims were later refuted.
On Tuesday, Shastri went a step further and suggested that Kohli should also consider abolishing the IPL in the future if “it comes down to it.”
“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 is not playing is the IPL “Sometimes you have to do that or tell the franchise I’m only playing half. Pay me half, it’s that simple. Those difficult calls have to come if you want to reach the pinnacle of your profession as an international player,” Shastri said on the YouTube channel of Jatin Sapru.
CAN HE SKIP IPL?
However, is it easy for a player of Kohli’s stature to get out of the IPL? Since the start of the cash-rich T20 competition, the BCCI has always ensured that the big names in Indian cricket were part of the IPL, apart from the time when they had to deal with injuries.
Take the case of Rohit Sharma, for example. The batter suffered a serious hamstring injury. He was left out of India’s 2020 tour of Australia and hours after the news came 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, despite speculation surrounding his injury management and his absence from Australia tour.
Kohli, despite not being the captain anymore, is the central figure for RCB. This is apparent from the way RCB handled their retentions. Despite Kohli stepping down from the lead 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 at a pre-season event to announce their new captain told us the story.
After stating that he would like to end his IPL career with Bengaluru, Kohli’s love for RCB is well documented. And the star batter and RCB have a bond that goes beyond the cricket pitch. Kohli has been one of the most marketable athletes over the years and has commercial deals with the franchise.
In 2021 PUMA signed a long-term strategic agreement with RCB and became the official kit partner of the franchise. The deal came at a time when Kohli was PUMA’s brand ambassador for its One8 brand. Kohli was the first Indian sportsman to sign a deal of more than Rs 100 crore for 8 years with the German sports brand in 2017. Kohli’s clothing brand ‘Wrogn’ was even the main 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 continued to play the IPL despite retiring from international cricket in 2020, with CSK management claiming the 40-year-old will continue to be part of the franchise.
Kohli is undoubtedly going through one of the leanest periods of his career. However, it is hard to see the star batter giving up an IPL contract to extend his international career. The former India captain has rested from select bilateral series and it is likely that Kohli will continue to do so. For example, 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 at home against the West Indies.
Kohli’s meager patch has been going on for over 3 years with the wait for his 71st international hundred frustrating with each passing game. Kohli, 34, will certainly choose the cricket series he would play in the future, but his time away from the game is unlikely to come at the expense of IPL commitments.