One has no hesitation to concede that lacking a batsman like Virat Kohli in the order on the challenging wickets in Australia is a big disadvantage. The 32-year-old has made a mark in Australia series every time he has gone there till now. In 2011-12, he was the only Indian batsman who got a hundred in a series that the visitors lost 0-4 with their famous but ageing batting line-up struggling.
In the 2014-15 series, he handled both the roles — of captaincy that he got suddenly as Dhoni stepped down midway into the series — and the batsmanship. Even though India lost the four-match series 0-2, Kohli’s relentless scoring (692 runs) saw him finishing second-best to Steve Smith who amassed 769 runs to end up as the man of the series. And then came the historic series in 2018-19 which the Virat Kohli-led India clinched 2-1 to script their maiden Test series win in Australia.
This time, the cricket lovers will only see Kohli donning the whites and blue cap in the first Test in Adelaide and not in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. In his 12 Tests played in Australia so far, Virat Kohli has scored 1,274 runs at an average of 55-plus with six hundreds and three fifties. His highest so far is 169 which he scored in Melbourne in the 2014-15 series.
Tendulkar, in comparison, played 20 Tests Down Under (he played five series there in all) in which he made 1,809 runs at an average of 53.20 with six hundreds and seven fifties. His highest score is 241 not out which he belted in Sydney in 2003-04. Kohli looked certain to better Tendulkar’s number of centuries Down Under but since he will play only one Test this time, that record could get a breather for the time being.
Down Under, Virat Kohli’s importance lies in his captaincy style
While these remain more of the statisticians’ food to chew, Virat Kohli’s importance also lies elsewhere. He is a player whose temperament suits the Australian challenge well. He is one who loves to take on the opponents like a gladiator in rough-and-tough conditions. In the 2018-19 series, it was undoubtedly Pujara’s iron bat and Jasprit Bumrah’s flawless bowling that facilitated India’s historic victory.
But one should not ignore the fact that Kohli, too, had played a big part and it was all about waging the psychological battle — eye to eye. His conduct was criticized a number of times, including by those in the opposition camp, but the Australians somewhere love Kohli’s style because it carries their own legacy in a way.
The Kangaroos were comparatively silent last time because of the notorious South Africa tour in 2018 that saw two of their main players — Smith and David Warner getting banned for a year — and their on-field conduct remained under the scanner of the cricketing world. But with the two ace batsmen returning to the hosts’ squad this time and a revenge series on the offing, one would expect the Aussies to come out with more aggression this time. This would make India feel Kohli’s absence even more.
The broadcasters of the upcoming Australia-India series are already apprehending the losses that the India skipper’s absence will cause and that gives another example of his importance in one of the most competitive cricket rivalries modern-day cricket has seen. There will be no dearth of capable batsmen in the Indian line-up but none of them will be able to match Kohli’s ‘gesture game’.
In a tough outing in Australia, that matters a lot for any visiting side. Sourav Ganguly displayed it in 2003-04 and India returned home undefeated. Kohli raised the bar by a notch a decade-and-half later by winning a Test series in Australia and his style was not too different from his predecessor. This series will be key from the perspective of the World Test Championship. India are at the No.2 position with 360 points while Australia are second with 296 after the ICC revised the points table.
A lop-sided defeat to the hosts could see India slipping from the top position and from that point of view, Kohli’s presence in the series was all the more needed. But having known his availability for some time now, the visitors should be mentally prepared to take on a revenge-seeking Australia to give their best to defend the trophy they won in their last series Down Under.
Source: The source of this content is our cricket news platform Crictracker.
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