As India lost the Test at Perth, one interesting point came to fore while the discussion was going on with few other Cricket freaks. It was regarding the performance of Indian batsmen in recent times.
When we analyze the performance of Viral Kohli and other Indian batsmen, one interesting pattern emerges and that is that ever since Virat Kohli has acquired that demigod status with the bat 3-4 of years back, the performance of all other India batsmen has declined.
Well as such at the first look, the statement looks bereft of any logic. However, let’s first see that what exactly has happened over the past few years which triggered this observation.
Though Kohli has been a champion batsman right since he made his Test debut in 2011 but the record suggests, that Kohli as a batsman catapulted himself to an upper notch since he took over Test captaincy in Australia during 2014-15. Before becoming captain, Kohli played 31 Test matches and scored around 2000 runs with not so much impressive average of 41. Now juxtapose this with his batting performance as a captain. After taking over the captaincy and till Perth Test, Kohli has played 44 Test matches in which he has scored 4400 runs with a staggering average of around 64.
Now look at the case of three other prolific India Test batsmen over the past few years – Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane. As apparent from the numbers (or otherwise also), the situation for these three players has been entirely different. Rahane, Vijay and Pujara have not been the same players since Kohli has taken the centre stage (2015 onwards). Till 2014 all three of them played top class knocks at the Test level. During India’s tour to England in 2014, when Kohli flopped miserably, Vijay and Rahane batted superbly with one century and two half-centuries scored by each of them during the series. Even in the series when Kohli took over the captaincy in 2014-15 during tour to Australia, both of them scored a century. After that series, Vijay could never score a Test century outside the subcontinent. Rahane’s batting form plummeted to an extent that he was dropped from the playing eleven last year against South Africa and also lost his usual place in ODI eleven. His performance during England tour this year was way below than what he achieved in England in 2014. Similarly, Pujara although redeemed himself recently with centuries in England and Australia, he also had a rough time. He had a very average tour to South Africa last year, whereas four years back in South Africa during 2013, Pujara was awesome.
So apparently when Kohli’s game was rising steadily, the form of other batsmen was declining. The moot question is, that is it just a coincidence or there is any rationale behind this?
Let’s peep in the past and look at the similar case of Sachin Tendulkar and Sanjay Manjrekar. By 1989-90, Manjrekar had established himself as the premier batsman of side and was regarded as the future of Indian batting. But once Tendulkar unleashed himself, Manjrekar started losing the plot. His confidence was diminishing. More Tendulkar was taking height, more Manjrekar was coming down. By 1996, when Tendulkar became the most outstanding batsman of the world, Manjrekar was down and out and he called it a day.
The template in the current case of Kohli and other is the same as Tendulkar/Manjrekar. What could be the possible reason? Ian Chappell once opined on a similar case, which was related to Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. Chappell said that Rohit shouldn’t allow himself to get overshadowed/overwhelmed by Kohli and should maintain his own game.
There are actually many possible reasons behind such phenomenon. One is that you get awestruck when you see one of your mates playing like this, which adversely affects your own confidence. Manjrekar once told that when he used to bat with Tendulkar, he always felt the pressure whenever Tendulkar would bat extraordinarily. The other reason is that when you see whole proceedings getting centred towards one person, your motivation level tends to come down.
However, what Chappell says about Rohit actually defines the situation in a more plausible way. The crux of what Chappell said is that one needs to remain oblivious with things like the greatness of his mates (Virat Kohli and Tendulkar) and should apply himself and play as per his strengths. To support what Chappell said, take the case of Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman and Sehwag. Unlike Manjrekar these four players never got perturbed while playing with Tendulkar and carved out their own niche place in the side.
Though this observation that Kohli’s ascent coincides with the decent of his other mates, is palpable, it is a very subjective discussion and it can’t be attributed to a specific reason. One thing holds true for sure is that Rahane, Pujara and Vijay should not get awestruck by Kohli and need to play their own game with conviction and self-confidence. It applies to KL Rahul as well. One last thing here is that apparently Pujara has cracked this code (his niche playing style and a century at Adelaide was the sign of it) to an extent but other need to follow the suit.
(The author is NewsMobile iJourno. Views are personal)