“Kyun ho rahi hain, yaar. Matlab mujhe samajh mein nahi aata, bhai. (Why is this discussion happening. I can’t understand this)”
India’s captain Rohit Sharma had a bemused expression just as a journalist started a question on Virat Kohli.
Kohli’s form in the last few years has become a national debate, with some ex-players including former India captain Kapil Dev, wondering why the senior India batter could not be dropped. The debate will continue after Kohli once again failed to convert a start in the second ODI at Lord’s on Thursday.
Having missed the first ODI due to a groin strain, Kohli took a batting fitness test of sorts on Thursday morning, before giving a firm nod to India coach Rahul Dravid indicating that he was good to play. But Kohli had already been in the news before his return to the eleven. About an hour before the Indian team arrived at Lord’s, the BCCI had announced the squad for the T20I series in the West Indies starting on July 29. It did not specify a reason for Kohli’s omission.
At Lord’s, Kohli walked in to bat in the third over and his first runs came off a straight drive to the boundary. But before that shot, he had played seven dot balls, including a maiden over. Two consecutive fours followed against Reece Topley, but Kohli could not find fluency and ended up pushing away from his body and edging David Willey to the wicketkeeper.
When asked if Kohli needed the support of the team during this difficult phase, Rohit said there was no need for a debate in the first place.
“He [Kohli] has played so many matches. He is playing for so many years. He is such a great batsman so he does not need reassurance,” Rohit said after the game. “I pointed to this in my last press conference, too: form goes up and down, that is part and parcel of any cricketer’s career. So a player like him, who has played for so many years, who has made so many runs, who has won so many matches, he only needs one or two good innings [to bounce back]. That is my thinking and I am sure all those who follow cricket will think similarly.”
This is the second time Rohit has backed Kohli publicly during the white-ball leg of the England tour. Rohit agreed that Kohli was going through a “slump” but said the team management still had firm belief in him.
“We do have chats about this topic, but we should also understand and think when we talk about such things. We have seen that the performance of all players goes up and down, but the quality of the player never gets worse. That we all should keep in mind. That is very important. Yaar, matlab, bande ne itne run banaya hai (he has made so many runs), check his average, how many hundreds he has made, he has [vast] experience of doing that. There is a slump in every player’s life. Even in the personal life it comes.”
It wasn’t just Rohit, even the England captain Jos Buttler said Kohli was “due” a big innings.
“I suppose in a little way it’s quite refreshing for the rest of us that he [Kohli] is human and he can have a couple of low scores as well, but look he has been one of the best players, if not the best player in ODI cricket in the world,” Buttler said.
“So he’s been a fantastic player for so many years and all batters, it just proves, go through runs of form where they don’t perform as well as they can do sometimes. But certainly as an opposition captain, you know a player of that class is always due, so you’re hoping that it doesn’t come against us.”
Like Rohit, Buttler also wondered why Kohli was facing criticism over his form. “Yeah, incredibly surprised, as I said, his record speaks for himself. The matches he’s won for India and yeah, why would you question that?”