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Virat Kohli open to taking a break, will talk to Rahul Dravid

On day he scores 73 off 54, RCB's Kohli says time off from non-stop cricket is needed to rejuvenate mentally and physically.

Virat Kohli of Royal Challengers Bangalore during the match against Gujarat Titans. (Photo by Saikat Das / Sportzpics for IPL)

There was one shot in Virat Kohli’s innings against Gujarat Titans on Thursday; a supremely elegant lofted drive off Rashid Khan for a six. It oozed sublimity and also, supreme confidence. Kohli’s 54-ball 73 also revelled in its emotional overload. Mental fatigue never looked to be an issue.

A match-winning knock against Titans notwithstanding, Kohli has been going through an elongated form slump and pundits have waded into it, offering contrasting opinions. Sunil Gavaskar didn’t see anything wrong in Kohli’s batting and said that the player needed a bit of luck to get a big score. As it happens during a lean patch, rub off the green deserted Kohli.

Former India head coach Ravi Shastri, on the other hand, suggested that an “overcooked” Kohli needed a break. A relentless bubble life has its downside and like Shastri had said after the last year’s T20 World Cup: “I don’t care who you are, if your name is Bradman, if you’re in a bubble as well, your average will come down because you’re human.”

Kohli is not averse to taking a break to allow himself a “mental reset”. “There’s one person precisely who has mentioned it which is Ravi bhai and that’s because he has seen from close quarters over the last six-seven years the reality of the situation that I have been in. The amount of cricket that I have played and the ups and downs and the toll that it takes on you to play three formats of the game plus the IPL for 10-11 years non-stop with the seven years of captaincy in between,” he told Star Sports in an interview.

Kohli added: “So to take a break and when to take a break is obviously something that I need to take a call on, but it is only a healthy decision for anyone to take some time off and just rejuvenate yourself mentally and physically.

“It’s only a matter of creating a balance and finding that balance which is right for you as an individual moving forward and I will definitely discuss this with all the people involved – Rahul bhai, the Indian team management – everyone to chart out whatever is best for myself and for the team definitely.”

Operating from a bio-secure environment can affect mental health. Ben Stokes fell prey to the pressure last year and took an indefinite break from cricket to prioritise mental well-being. Kohli had backed the England all-rounder, saying: “Periodic breaks are important for the players. I’m sure more players will take breaks like Ben Stokes has, just to cope with this tough bubble life.”

As regards to his form, the former India captain hasn’t scored a century in any format since November 2019. This IPL, where he has scored 309 runs in 14 matches, has been underwhelming by his lofty standards. Along the way, he suffered the ignominy of having golden ducks in successive matches. Trying to draw a 2014 analogy, when he had become James Anderson’s bunny in England and finished with 134 runs from 10 Test innings, could be tempting. Kohli begs to differ.

“What happened in England was a pattern so something that I could work on, something that I had to overcome. Right now, there’s nothing that you can point out saying there’s a problem here. So that for me is an easier thing to process because I know that I’m batting well and at times when I start feeling that rhythm back then I know I’m batting well, which wasn’t the case in England (where) I didn’t feel like I was batting well at all. So I had to work hard on one thing that I could be exposed to again and again which I overcame,” he said. At the same time, however, he spoke about not putting the current phase behind him.

India’s assignments after the IPL are a white-ball home series against South Africa and another T20I series in Ireland followed by a one-off Test in Manchester. If the Chetan Sharma-led selection committee picks two different teams for the two different formats, Kohli, along with the current India captain Rohit Sharma and fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, is expected to have downtime before the squad assembles for the England tour.

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Coming back to Kohli’s innings against Titans, the bearhug from Royal Challengers Bangalore head coach Sanjay Bangar and skipper Faf du Plessis attested happiness and showed how eagerly they were waiting for the turnaround.

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