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IPL 2022 – Is this the return to form for Virat Kohli?

In the cricketing world, the phrase “intent” is frequently overused. However, while witnessing Virat Kohli shred Gujarat Titans’ assault in the PowerPlay on a typical muggy night at the Wankhede Stadium, it was the first and only word that shone like a bulb in your mind.

Mohammed Shami’s opening ball of the Royal Challengers Bangalore innings was a classic Mohammed Shami delivery, swinging in the air and seaming off the pitch. Kohli, who faced that ball, appeared to load his back foot early and push-drive it to mid-off with a confident front-foot stride. He dashed to the other end like a jackrabbit, and despite the fact that there was no prospect of grabbing a double, he was planning a second run. The early single served as a warning to the opposition about Kohli’s approach to the rest of his innings.

Kohli became more of an expressionist painter during Shami’s second tenure. He pushed a length delivery towards the downtown regions on the second ball of that over. His head was still, his eyes were still, and it was standing and delivering stuff from the RCB staple, minus a little trigger movement. Shami stood motionless in his followthrough for a moment before returning to his spot. After a few balls, the front foot released a little further and the bat face opened up to loft a regal flourish over the covers.

Kohli then skipped down the deck after the PowerPlay, creating space to crack Yash Dayal through extra cover. Kohli was gradually regaining his rhythm, as were the cries “Kohli, Kohli, Virat,” and a few posters in the stands reading “King Kohli.”

In the post-game press conference, RCB coach Mike Hesson observed, “Well, we could see from the dugout on the sidelines that he carried a huge amount of intent out there. Faf was very much in the game when he was on strike and played a good shot, or when he rotated the strike. He obviously had an inside edge and a fist-pump, but all he needed was a little bit of luck to go his way. I believe we know when Virat is in that mindset; good luck to him; he can take the game away from anyone”.

Kohli has been restricted by spinners in recent IPL seasons, but not at the Wankhede, especially while facing Rashid. To get his fifty in the PowerPlay, he played a magnificent loft down the ground and also used his powerful wrists to disdainfully whip GT’s spearhead into the deep midwicket barrier. Kohli’s head, one of the heaviest parts of his body, appeared to be still moving into the shot when he cracked the loft. Kohli also held his posture for a few whiles, as if admiring the stroke’s picture-perfect timing.

Even though Kohli was eventually dismissed by Rashid, Sai Kishore was the only spinner who genuinely worried about the opening during the night. The left-arm spinner gripped and turned a few and even beat Kohli’s outside edge once. Kohli and Faf du Plessis, on the other hand, displayed the necessary batting skills to play out the spinner. It wasn’t really the vintage Kohli of 2016, in terms of how he dealt with Sai Kishore and the middle half of the innings.

He was striking at 120.87 in the PowerPlay, 152 in the middle phase, and 219.81 in the slog overs in 2016. In PowerPlay, Kohli’s version of 2022 versus GT had a strike rate of around 140, and when he returned to the pavilion, the screen flashed a strike rate of 135.19. When the ball was hard and new, it was clear that he was trying to reinvent the code and target PowerPlay.

Kohli, like any other batter out of form, may have needed a little luck to get back into his groove. In Hardik Pandya’s second over, he had a couple of slices of luck – a french cut that sailed past the stumps and Rashid misjudging a catch in the deep. Explaining self-confidence, or the lack thereof is similar to venturing into the unknown. It’s difficult to determine when self-confidence may ignite like a fire or will be extinguished in the blink of an eye.

Kohli’s fist-pump after eking out an inside edge felt like he was on a battlefield ready to unleash more shots from his heavy weapons if the single off the first ball and smashing Shami down the ground provided a flash of light. He appeared to have converted himself from an out-of-form batter to wearing his special suit – “King Kohli” – in just a few overs.