Cricket Column: Kohli’s sober side is so good but ugly, old holes in Indian plot show up again

Sports Saturday 23/July/2016 17:44 PM
By: Times News Service
Cricket Column: Kohli’s sober side is so good but ugly, old holes in Indian plot show up again

Done the right way — with the feet together, the glutes squeezed, the back in a neutral position and the body moving in a straight line — the push-up is a versatile exercise: most effective and least expensive. Fitness instructors might tell us not to do push-ups with the knees on the floor as it takes the legs entirely out of the equation — but after getting his feet, hands, shoulders and head in synch for nearly six-and-a-half hours giving the Indian scoreboard the optimal strength it needed in the first Test, what Virat Kohli did, whether it was a mini Misbah ul-Haq moment at Lord’s or a simple, half push-up, would only please anyone, be it a fitness purist or a cricket fan.
If we take the passionate kiss he planted on Antigua soil out of the picture, Kohli’s celebration of his first Test double century was soft and subdued. The shy smile played on his lips as he walked back to the dressing room five balls later to have lunch seemed like the lone, simple piece of jewellery worn by a woman that spoke about her enticing personality in an enigmatic way. An awesome contrast to the familiar man we know about as bold and loud. Beauty lies in mellow, sober simplicity as well.
As Kohli declared the first innings with 566 runs on the scoreboard on day two, everything looked perfect from an Indian point of view. One of the openers spent four hours at the crease to score a patient 84, one of the top five batsmen scored a century and went on to add 100 more runs, one of the five specialist bowlers promoted in the batting order at No. 6 lasted more than five hours to eventually post his third Test hundred, another bowler hit a half century to help the skipper declare the innings with a bit of time left to claim one of the West Indies openers... Everything worked to Anil Kumble’s plan—only if we are looking at the rosy-glossy side of the story.
The other side looks gloomy, and it’s this side where Kumble and Kohli wanted a bit of glitter and gloss to gather on. The habit of losing wickets just before or soon after a break was something that the team under the new coach wanted to set right, but that didn’t happen. Three batsmen lost the team plot on either side of the break: Cheteshwar Pujara was out on the fourth ball after the lunch break, Shikhar Dhwan was lbw when the sweet aroma of tea was wafting in the air and Kohli dragged the second ball after lunch on to the stumps on day two.
Pujara wasted an opportunity to get back into the spotlight after occupying the crease for a considerably long time without being productive. He was patient, but when patience consumes one and a half hours and yields just 16 runs, it’s no virtue but a waste of time for the team.
Dhawan looked determined to put the bad memories of a series of recent Test failures behind him and was on course to a century when he swept and missed a ball from leg spinner Devendra Bishoo pitched on the middle stump and travelled straight to trap him leg before in the 55th over. Openers need some luck as well to live up to tea, and Dhawan had a fair share of it as early as the fifth over when Shannon Gabriel fired three shots at him from a short range. Dhawan was made to jump to the Gabriel tune as the 145kmh missiles made their way to his nose and each time he was lucky that the edges fell either short of the fielder or in no man’s land.
Kohli lost his wicket in the first over after lunch when everyone thought it was a perfect stage for him to step on the gas, especially after scoring a career-first double hundred and getting energised from a 30-minute break. It may be unfair to put a guy who scored 200 runs in a bad light, but when the guy in question is as brilliant as Kohli one is tempted to point the finger of blame.
The first of the four-Test series is just half way through, but unless the West Indies show a better sense of purpose, the empty stands on day one and day two may remain vacant even on a sunny Sunday to lend a boring, barren touch to the proceedings.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman