Virat Kohli (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)NEW DELHI: Virat Kohli's struggles with the bat continue to be the biggest talking point in Indian cricket. That always happens when a superstar is performing well below expectations and the lofty standards he has set for himself.
His blade hasn't been able to produce consistent big scores. He has not scored a century since November 2019. The question marks are hovering like dark clouds over India's run-machine Kohli.
While India captain Rohit Sharma continues to back Kohli, former India fast bowler Ashish Nehra has also supported the man who stands at number 3 on the list of all time most centuries. Nehra, who is also from Delhi, like Kohli, is confident that the man with 70 international centuries under his belt will find big scores soon.
"When you don't perform, not only (when it's) Virat Kohli, there will be discussions. There will be discussions even if you're not a player of Kohli's calibre. When you are playing, you try to focus on your game and not listen to so-called 'outside voices' from people outside the dressing room. It's important how your teammates, management, and selectors are backing you," Nehra said in response to a question asked by TimesofIndia.com during a media interaction.
"But we are talking about a guy like Virat. Yes, it's not written anywhere that Virat will keep playing for India even if he doesn't score runs. That will not happen. But when you have done so much in the past, you will always get extra chances," the former India pacer, who coached the Gujarat Titans to the IPL title recently, further added.
Kohli was expected to find his lost touch in the fifth Test (rescheduled Test) against England but that didn't happen. He could make just 11 in the first innings and 20 in the second in the crucial Test, which England went on to win to level the Test series at 2-2.
In the 2 T20Is that Kohli played against the Three Lions he scored 12 runs at an average of 6 (1 in the second T20I and 11 in the third T20I). He missed the first ODI with a groin niggle and then managed just 16 before being dismissed by David Willey in the second ODI, which England won by 100 runs at Lord's.
The next international assignment for Team India after the current tour of England is over is a 3-ODI, 5-T20I tour of the Caribbean, with the last two T20Is scheduled to be played in Florida. This series begins on July 22, with the first ODI in Trinidad.
After being rested for the ODI leg of this tour, the selectors have also 'rested the former India captain for the 5 T20I series. According to reports, Kohli had asked for rest himself, while saying that he will be fully available from the Asia Cup onwards, which begins on August 27 in Sri Lanka.
"At the age of 33, fitness isn't a problem for him (Virat). Everybody knows his accomplishments and the talent he has. Everybody is hopeful that Virat will come good, the quicker the better. Let's hope we see a different Virat after the West Indies series. If he rests for a month or five odd weeks, it will be helpful for him. Rest is not a bad thing. You just played IPL, then the Test match, and then white ball cricket. Any player will be under pressure if he doesn't score runs," Nehra added.
'BUMRAH IS CONSISTENT, KEEPS LEARNING'
India's pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah has been in ominous form of late. And his confidence seems to have rubbed off on his batting skills as well.
Bumrah, who captained the side in the absence of Rohit Sharma in the fifth Test vs England, made history by smashing 35 runs off one Stuart Broad over. He had hit Broad for two massive sixes (one came off a no-ball), four boundaries, and a single in Broad's over, that included five wides. He also claimed five wickets in the match.
He bowled a fiery and almost unplayable spell of 6/19 against England in the opening ODI that saw the hosts being skittled out for just 110. He was adjudged Man of the Match for his stupendous efforts that also eventually helped India register a comfortable 10-wicket win.
Nehra feels Bumrah is an 'outstanding' bowler.
"Be it any format, Bumrah, in the last four years, he has been outstanding. The most important thing about Bumrah is that he has been consistent and kept the learning process going. He makes mistakes and then learns from those and brings something new to the table. When you speak about good bowling and consistency, Bumrah and Shami are the two names that pop up in my mind. The way Bumrah has been bowling is just outstanding. Bumrah is taking the burden on his shoulders which is just applaudable. In IPL, you will see different wickets and pressure and Bumrah has proved himself in every test. He has the x factor which is very good for Team India," Nehra, who played 17 Tests, 120 ODIs, and 27 T20Is for India between 1999 and 2017, further said in response to a question asked by TimesofIndia.com.
A left-arm fast bowler is always a big asset in any team’s pace battery. Indian cricket has had the likes of Zaheer Khan, Nehra, and Irfan Pathan in the past, but of late no left-arm pacer has managed to cement his place in the Indian team.
The likes of Khaleel Ahmed, Barinder Sran, and Jaydev Unadkat have all tried. T Natarajan also made waves with his bowling prowess for a while, but he has been plagued by injuries.
For Nehra, the new weapon in the left-arm pacer armoury – Arshdeep Singh – has the potential to fill that void.
"When it comes to let-arm fast bowling, Arshdeep is closest. He has impressed me a lot. India have tried Khaleel Ahmed and T Natarajan but Arshdeep impressed me. Khaleel and Natarajan got injured. Arshdeep is bowling really well. He played one T20I and he bowled really well. So, let's hope he keeps his form and keeps doing well. But Arshdeep will have some competition in the future and competition is good for a team," Nehra, who took over 200 international wickets for India further said.
CAN TEAM INDIA BE CALLED THE BEST LIMITED-OVERS SIDE IN THE WORLD CURRENTLY?
For Nehra, a couple of series aren't enough to tag a team as 'the best' in the world. It's consistency that makes a team reach the top.
"On the basis of just one or two series, you can't judge who is best and who is not. You have to keep doing well and keep improving and be consistent. People are talking about the T20 World Cup right now but we still have three months (to go) and before that India are playing too many T20 games," he said.
"We were leading 2-1 in the Test series. This time we didn't play Test cricket before playing the fifth Test. On the other hand, England did manage to play a Test series vs New Zealand. They won that series too. We all know what kind of batting display England showed. International cricket will keep changing and on the basis of one or two or in fact, three series to judge a team is very difficult," Nehra signed off.