Is The Strain Getting To Kohli
No man has scored more runs in the IPL than Virat Kohli.
Along with international team mate Shikhar Dhawan, he is the only man to have surpassed 6,000 runs in the competition.
Yet all does not seem well with the former Indian captain. This year for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) he has managed just 175 runs in aggregate with a top score of just 58, and a strike rate of 111.09. That is the third lowest amongst batters with at least 150 runs to his name.
Former West Indian cricketer turned commentator Ian Bishop has noticed that he is beginning to struggle against all types of bowlers, and seems to have a particular weakness at the moment against off-spin.
He is also no longer batting with his old intent, and will often, having hit an aggressive shot, slow down again.
Nor have his problems been confined to the IPL alone. It is almost three years since he last scored a century in any format of the game, and in more than 100 innings.
It is not as if he is burdened by the responsibilities of captaincy any more. In the past six months he has relieved himself of the role of India in all formats of the game, and he has stood down in favour of Faf du Plessis with RCB.
There have even been suggestions that he might be dropped, both by his franchise and also by his country, talk that would have seemed ludicrous even a year ago.
Now there are calls for him to take a prolonged break from the game, or risk premature burn-out.
The problem is that cricket is now almost a 24/7, 365 day a year sport, with little or no time left in the calendar for rest, both for the mind and the spirit.
The list of players who have had to take mental health breaks from the game keeps growing – Ben Stokes, Quinton de Kock, and Glenn Maxwell are just three examples.
The global pandemic only made the situation worse, with players forced to endure months in bio-secure bubbles, made to stay locked inside their hotel rooms, allowed out only to play and train.
And then there are the particular pressures of being Indian captain in a country obsessed with cricket, where every move that players make, whether on or off the field, is endlessly scrutinised.
For many of them, a private life is virtually non-existent, however hard they try. Taking all that into account, if Kohli is starting to feel the strain, the only wonder is that it has not happened sooner.
He remains one of the most gifted players of his generation and, with proper care and attention, he may have a number of years left at the top.
But, once his IPL duties with RCB are finished, now may be the time for him to step away from the sport for a few months and properly recharge his batteries.
Otherwise he could continue to scratch around for his best form.
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