One of the major worries for Team India heading into the Asia Cup 2022 campaign in the UAE was the wretched form of their senior batter Virat Kohli. This has been the case with Indian cricket for a while now. However, Kohli’s performance in the multi-nation T20 tournament, like the Asia Cup, was always going to be significant considering the World Cup in mind, which will be held in Australia in October-November. Before taking a break from the West Indies and Zimbabwe tours, the 33-year-old had a disastrous tour of England. He played matches across all three game formats but had very little to show in numbers. His figures in six international innings during the tour read 11, 20, 1, 11, 16 and 17.
In the wake of his poor showing during the series in England, questions were being asked regarding Kohli being rested for the white ball tours of West Indies and Zimbabwe. According to some critics, the senior batter should have gone on the tours since he would have got a chance to regain some of his form against not-so-strong bowling attacks. In hindsight, though, the decision to rest Kohli has proved to be the right one. In England, he was not himself, and his aggression, one of his assets, seemed misplaced. Kohli himself recently admitted in a candid interview that he was trying to fake his intensity.
He, perhaps, needed that break to rejuvenate himself and come back fresh, which is precisely what he has done. Sometimes when athletes play the game day in and day out, mental fatigue is bound to set in. Again, Kohli himself admitted in the interview that he did not feel like picking up a bat for the first time in his life. What the break has done for the 33-year-old is that it has broken his monotony and has allowed him to breathe freely, away from all the constant chatter around his form. Whatever he did during his time away from the game, it has clearly worked.
Not just about the runs
In his first three innings since returning to international cricket, Kohli has registered scores of 35, 59* and 60 in India’s three Asia Cup 2022 encounters. These are significant numbers in T20 cricket, and India will be extremely pleased with the number of runs Kohli has scored since making a comeback from a short break. However, more than the number of runs he has scored, the manner in which he has scored them would please the team management the most.
Even when he struggled, Kohli came up with a few significant knocks. He made a few reasonable efforts in England last year, but the tendency to flirt outside the off-stump kept hurting him. And in South Africa, Kohli played some substantial knocks at the start of the year. However, he did not look that fluent, particularly in the one-dayers, where he struggled to time the ball. That has not been the case in the Asia Cup.
In the UAE tournament, Kohli completely controlled his game. He can reread the bowlers’ minds and is playing strokes as per his will. His flick for six with utter disdain off Mohammad Hasnain’s bowling in the Super 4 match against Pakistan was a massive indication that Kohli is finding his mojo and confidence back. He also strikes fear in the opposition camp when he plays such strokes. That can only be good news for India.
Timed to perfection!
One of the biggest positives for India concerning Kohli’s return to form is that it has come just in the nick of time. A failure for the former captain in the Asia Cup might not have jeopardized the T20 World Cup spot. But the concerns would have risen for sure in the Indian camp, even though nobody would have spoken about it openly. Whether or not Kohli succeeds in the World Cup is a different case altogether. What matters is that India’s best batter will go into the ICC event with his two most trustworthy comrades – his confidence and his batting rhythm.