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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Virat Kohli’s struggle against leg spin unfolds a troublesome chapter

"We basically just found that Virat Kohli finds leg-spinners hard to line up early in his innings," Adam Zampa had pointed out. In T20Is, Kohli has the second-highest dot-ball percentage against the right-arm wrist-spinners.

Written by Rahul Sadhu | Updated: February 6, 2020 12:10:27 pm
Virat Kohli is dismissed for 51 by Ish Sodhi in Hamilton during the first ODI between India and New Zealand.  Leg spinner I Sodhi, D Bishoo, S Prasanna, Imran Tahir,  Adil Rashid, and Adam Zampa in the inset (L-R).

Virat Kohli, captain of the Indian cricket team, has been struggling to score against leg-spinners of late. This deduction is based on the recent trend of him falling prey against right-arm wrist spinners, who have more often than not found his number. Three of his last four dismissals in the 50-over format have come against leg-spinners.

The chink in Kohli’s tough armour was once again exposed in Hamilton on Wednesday as the 31-year-old batsman fell prey to Kiwi leg-spinner Ish Sodhi for 51. Kohli was outfoxed by a googly which crashed into the top of his middle-stump, reminding everyone that leg-spin could be his nemesis after all.

For Sodhi, it is no mean feat as he has dismissed the Indian skipper on a couple of occasions in T20Is. Kohli averages a mere 9.50 and has a dot-ball percentage of 21.43 per cent against him.

Australian leg spinner Adam Zampa has troubled Kohli a lot in white-ball cricket. He has dismissed the Delhi-born batsman seven times in ODIs and twice in the shortest format – which is more than any other bowler in limited-overs cricket.

“We basically just found that Virat finds leg-spinners hard to line up early in his innings,” Zampa had pointed out.

This has led to a trend of the opposition throwing leg-spin at Kohli early.

Remember the first time when Kohli was bowled by a leg-spinner? England’s Adil Rashid had bamboozled Kohli, who fell to a beauty that pitched on leg and clipped the top of off stump to leaving the prolific right-hander wide-eyed in disbelief. It was the first time that Kohli was clean bowled by a leg-spinner in 200 ODI innings and 112 Test innings.

In T20Is, Kohli has the second-highest dot-ball percentage against the right-arm wrist-spinners. 28.74 per cent of the deliveries by leg-spinners to Kohli are dots in T20Is since 2015. In ODIs, he has been dismissed by leg-spinners 17 times out of 185.

However, Kohli has been counter-attacking as well. He has the second-best strike-rate (138.32) against the leggies and averages 46.20 against them.

So what has been the problem for Kohli?

Let us start with the basics. How exactly does Kohli play spin?

On most occasions, the majority of his runs against spinners come in front of the square on the legside. You will often find him going back in the crease and tucking it away on the legside.

This is where Kohli needs to focus on his approach – not play down the line and instead give himself some room.

While it is necessary to bring your bat forward what Kohli also needs to keep in mind is to try to not end up committing himself too much to it. Else there is a chance of missing the line.

Former India captain and legendary batsman Sunil Gavaskar had a pertinent question: Do batsmen not read the bowler from the hand?

In Kohli’s dismissal against Sodhi, his head went down, expecting it to be a leg-break. By the time he had realized it was a googly, it was too late.

For now, Kohli will have to address this weakness and get his footwork right against leg spinners – something which has been a problem.

But If Kohli has proven anything throughout his career, it’s that he is more capable of adapting to negate new risks. More so than almost any other batsman in the world.

Closing his stance, or opening it; coming at the ball, or playing later; going hard, or leaving everything – he’s shown the ability to do everything when he senses a threat developing. For now, it’s a tiny window, but one that probably won’t last long.

Virat Kohli dismissals against leg-spin in ODI’s (Since Jan 2012) :

Runs    Bowler

49 –      S Prasanna (2014)
46 –      I Tahir ((2015)
45 –      I Sodhi (2016)
65 –      I Sodhi (2016)
39 –      A Zampa (2017)
75 –      A Rashid (2018)
71 –      A Rashid (2018)
140 –    D Bishoo (2018)
44 –      A Zampa (2019)

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