Virat Kohli: The Run machine

Virat Kohli's ODI legend is built around playing old-school cricket and supreme fitness, which allows the India skipper to run hard throughout his long innings.

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Updated: February 9, 2018 12:47 pm
Virat Kohli, kohli, virat kohli statistics, virat kohli centuries, india vs south africa, ind vs sa, ind vs sa 3rd odi, cricket news, sports news, indian express At 159 balls, the Newlands knock was Virat Kohli’s longest innings in One-Day Internationals. (Source: AP)

VIRAT KOHLI’S 160 not out at Newlands is the highest individual ODI score for an Indian batsman in South Africa. It was also the first time an Indian had crossed 150 in an ODI in the Rainbow Nation. Kohli sailed past the previous highest, Sourav Ganguly’s 127 at the Wanderers in 2001, and kept going on and on. His 159-ball knock was also the longest in Kohli’s ODI career, having walked in at the start of the second over of India’s innings. What stood out was the clinical manner in which he went about constructing it. Here is the anatomy of Kohli’s perfect run-storm. Keeping the good ones out

There is no obvious or set pattern to a Kohli innings, like say one from Rohit Sharma or Aaron Finch. With Sharma, you know he’ll play himself in during the first 10 overs in cruise mode and then press on the gas. Finch, on the other hand, has his pedal to the metal from the moment he walks in. With Kohli, “playing to the merit of the ball or the bowler” isn’t a cliche. It’s his formula to success. If he sees a good ball, he is content to defend or leave it. Kagiso Rabada’s new ball spell on Wednesday was a fiery one and he got the ball to jag off the surface and generated disconcerting bounce. Kohli faced 20 balls of that five-over burst and scored 9 runs. Seventeen of those were dot balls, but he still managed two fours. The sequence of the first two overs he faced from Rabada sums up Kohli’s approach. First ball he’s beaten outside off, second he ducks under a bouncer, the third he’s given out LBW but survives after the review shows an inside edge, fourth is a full delivery pushed to mid-off, fifth a length delivery that’s defended while the sixth is on the pads and flicked for four. The loose ball goes for runs without fail.

Next over, the first three deliveries are around off-stump and defended by Kohli. The fourth is short and sits up on the sluggish surface, Kohli hammers it off the back-foot for four. The next two balls are left alone. It’s much the same in the next over from Lungi Ngidi as he shoulders arms twice, rides the bounce and defends two short-pitched deliveries while flicking one which drifts too close to his pads. Kohli didn’t seem too bothered by the pockets of dot balls against Rabada early on — once he faced five on the trot, once four on the trot and twice three. From the 10th over of the Indian innings onwards, only once did Kohli go three balls in a row without scoring and only on six occasions did the South Africans manage to keep him quiet for two back-to-back deliveries.

The only bowler to trouble Kohli in the middle overs was Imran Tahir. Twice in one over, Kohli failed to pick a googly. And from that point on, he avoided playing a forceful shot against the leggie till he was well past his century when he hit an audacious slog-sweep.

Border-less to boundary-less

Kohli can be an old-school coach’s delight while constructing an ODI ton. He manages to be destructive despite sticking to the old adage of “keeping the ball along the ground”, for large parts of his innings anyway. In Cape Town, he didn’t try to clear the infield till he’d reached 118 and there were only 33 balls left in the innings. It came off a slower delivery from Andile Phelukwayo that he picked, got under, and walloped over mid-off for four. That was only the 11th four of his innings. He added one more boundary along with a couple of sixes in the 49th and 50th overs respectively. In all, only 60 runs off his 160 came in boundaries. He had to run for the other 100, 75 of which were singles. He also ran 67 singles and seven twos for his partners. It was an ode to his fitness and a trend he’s followed in many of his ODI tons outside Asia. Three of his 13 scores above 120 in ODIs have come outside the subcontinent. Of those, the 133 not out in 86 deliveries against Sri Lanka at Hobart in 2012 was an anomaly. It came when India had to score at nearly 9 an over to qualify for the tri-series final. His Cape Town epic was the first time he’d gone past 120 outside Asia while batting first. In Napier, like here, 54.47 per cent of his runs came via singles or twos. He’s averaged nearly 60 per cent — for scoring runs without boundaries — for each of his eight centuries scored in South Africa, Australia, England and New Zealand. It’s a trait that stands out even more considering a number of the other batsmen in the line-up — Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and even MS Dhoni of late — aren’t the best at rotating strike. While he did hit a few boundaries at the start of his innings, there were only two between 50 and 100. And only one during a 26-over period post the 10th over when he scored 66 runs.

Anticipation, not premeditation

Anticipation is not the same as premeditation. There’s no guesswork here, only conviction. And Kohli’s six off Rabada in the final over was all about anticipation. Watch his footwork. He not only goes back in his crease but also takes his back-foot across so that he can swing against the line and generate power to clear the fence. It’s because he knew Rabada was going for a bouncer, especially after a string of missed yorkers ending up as low full tosses. At a time when batsmen are keen on walking around the crease and putting the bowler off, here is Kohli letting the bowler do what he wants and being a step ahead of him.

Then next ball, the final one of the innings, he stays in his crease but doesn’t move his foot across, opening himself up because he knows the yorker’s coming. And it was a yorker, which he drilled straight past the bowler for four.

2.75 kilometers or 3010 yards is the distance Virat Kohli ran during the course of his 160-run innings on Wednesday. Given that the length of a cricket pitch is 22 yards, Kohli ran 2200 yards (75 x 1, 11 x 2, 1 x 3) for his runs. and 810 yards (67 x 1, 7 x 2) for his partners’. As compared to footballers, who routinely clock upwards of 6 kilometers in a match, it may not sound much, but most of Kohli’s runs were short, explosive sprints. And unlike footballers or tennis players, he was wearing heavy protective gear.

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