Virat Kohli let down by his own men

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By Nagraj Gollapudi in Birmingham

VIRAT Kohli scored exactly 200 runs in the first Test. The other 10 batsmen scored 214. Since December 2013, when India toured South Africa, Kohli has eight Test centuries in Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand.

The rest of the Indian batsmen during that period have scored just as many between themselves in those four countries.

In the 17 Tests Kohli has played in this period, he averages 54.48; all the others in the top-seven collectively average 28.13.

Since the start of the 2017-18 season, in seven Tests, Kohli has scored 31.9% of India’s total runs.

YOU GET THE DRIFT
The first Test was a contest between England and Kohli, and he lost not because he failed, but because all his specialist batsmen failed.

Test-match batting in England is never easy. Even Kohli, as CricViz revealed, edged and missed more deliveries in this game than any other.

But the reason he did not fail was because he applied himself, and the rest of the line-up didn’t. Kohli figured out a way to feel comfortable even as Edgbaston was clamouring for his head.

As India batting coach Sanjay Bangar pointed out on the second day: Kohli found a way to stay a step ahead. So why couldn’t the other Indian batsman do the same?

Shikhar Dhawan was not a certainty to open with M. Vijay not just because of his bad numbers overseas, but also because he made a pair in the warm-up match against a second-string Essex side.

In both innings, Dhawan reached out with hard hands at a ball that was moving away outside off stump and was caught in the slips.

On Saturday morning, Ravi Shastri was seen talking to Dhawan about his technique. Even without being privy to the talk, it is fair to assume that the head coach was asking the left-hander to wait for the ball to come to him rather than reach.

Dhawan was one of the two batsmen that Bangar, without naming, said had “thrown” their wickets away. KL Rahul was the other one. Rahul had been included ahead of the more experienced Cheteshwar Pujara at No. 3.

The selection was made an hour before start of play, during the team huddle. On Friday, Rahul was defeated by a mind-bender of a delivery from Ben Stokes. But in the first innings, facing only his second delivery, he went chasing wide outside his off stump and played on.

  1. Vijay, the other pillar in the top order, was ineffective as well. In the first innings, He came out looking indecisive and suddenly found himself stagnant and exposed. In the second innings, he left an inswinger to be trapped lbw.

And in the first, even though he had put on 50 runs with Dhawan, both he and his partner departed even before Anderson and Broad had finished half their first spells.

What must have pained Kohli most was Ajinkya Rahane, his deputy, wafting at an innocuous delivery from Sam Curran late on Friday. The thin edge was picked up by Johnny Bairstow behind the wickets. As Rahane walked out, Kohli put the towel stuck to his hip up on his head.

This was the second time in eight months that India found themselves in a winning position while chasing a small target.

In the Cape Town Test early this year, they failed to make the required 208. As Sanjay Manjrekar had written then, the Indian batsmen could not develop the instinct to bat in South Africa, having arrived in the country a week before the Test.

That is not the case on this tour. Vijay and Rahane played for India-A against England Lions before the three-day warm-up against Essex. All the other batsmen have been in the UK since late June. As Kohli said after the match, his batsmen needed to look in the mirror.

  1. Ashwin said that it would not be prudent to be harsh on the batsmen on a pitch that did not allow them to play with freedom. He added that this team still has the potential to do something “special”.

“I have been on tour since 2011. And that way this team has got really a positive vibe in terms of at least believing that we can pull it off from any stage because we have in the past, and probably on the last three or four away tours we have been on, we have managed to pull off some incredible victories. And probably if we have to win a Test series in England, and that too a five-match series, we will have to pull off something special at some stage.”

There is no doubt about the belief. But right now India are hurting.

On Wednesday morning, Kohli had walked into the Test match with the whites tucked in, chest out, full of intent. At noon yesterday, Kohli walked down the stairs for the post-match presentation, shirt tucked out, hands behind his back, all his pride swallowed.

He accepted defeat and patted his counterpart on the shoulder to congratulate him on the win. Let down by his own men, Kohli could do nothing else. (ESPN Cricinfo)