Boost For India Ahead Of T20 World Cup: Virat Kohli Shows Uptick In Strike-Rate, Spin Game In IPL 2nd Half

Boost For India Ahead Of T20 World Cup: Virat Kohli Shows Uptick In Strike-Rate, Spin Game In IPL 2nd Half
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Star Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) and India batter Virat Kohli continues to prove his undeniable mettle as a T20 player amid the divisive views by fans, cricket experts and former players, giving Men in Blue a boost ahead of the ICC T20 World Cup 2024, which will take place in West Indies and USA this year from June 1 onwards. Continuing his fine run with the bat and indicating that he can hit big from ball one if needed, Virat played a solid knock of 27 in just 13 balls against Delhi Capitals (DC) on Sunday.

His knock had a four and three massive sixes and a strike rate of over 207. A huge part of this knock was his back-and-forth with compatriot and pacer Ishant Sharma, someone who has been around Virat since his academy days. Both exchanged jokes, shared laughs and tried to get one-up on each other before a fine delivery by Ishant was nicked by Virat straight into the hands of wicketkeeper Abhishek Porel.

In the ongoing season, Virat is the Orange Cap holder for most runs, making 661 runs at an average of 66.10 and a strike rate of 155.16, with a century and five fifties. His best score is 113*. RCB, who has made a remarkable comeback in the tournament with five successive wins after a horrid win-loss record of 1-6 in the first half, will need Virat to be at his best against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in their final league game at Bengaluru on May 18 for a chance at playoffs.

Often being questioned on his strike rate, Virat has swung back at his critics in his signature fashion, ditching boundaries in favour of huge sixes and passing verbal jabs at naysayers during post-inning or match presentations.

In the first six games of the tournament, Virat scored well at a healthy strike rate. He made 319 runs in his first six innings in 225 balls at a strike rate of 141.77. 29 fours and 12 sixes came from Virat’s bat, marking a ratio of 5.4 balls per boundary. He was forced to play the anchor and attacker at the same time as other batters around him struggled for form and rhythm. Virat scored a century and two fifties in these six innings.

The switch flipped in Virat’s batting when they were tasked with chasing 288 runs against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in their seventh game. Though RCB faced a 25-run loss despite a valiant effort, Virat scored 42 in 20 balls, with six fours and two sixes. His strike rate was 210.00.

Since that SRH game, fans have experienced a different Virat. In these next seven innings, Virat scored 342 runs in just 201 balls, with a strike rate going up to a massive 170.14. 27 fours and 21 sixes have come from his bat in these seven innings starting from that SRH game. The balls per boundary ratio has also come down, with 4.1 balls taken to smash one.

An unnoticed positive of Virat’s remarkable run is his six-hitting. He has smashed a total of 33 sixes so far, the second-highest by a batter next to SRH’s Abhishek Sharma (35 sixes). Virat has more sixes than Sunil Narine (32), Travis Head, Heinrich Klaasen and Riyan Parag (31), Australian sensation Jake Fraser McGurk and Shivam Dube (28), Rajat Patidar (27) and Rishabh Pant (25).

This is the only second time Virat has crossed 30 sixes in a single season of IPL, with his highest peak coming in 2016, when he smashed 38 sixes in 16 games. He has one more league game atleast to add more to his tally.

Since that Sunrisers game, Virat’s strike rate against spin, something considered his weakness, has also gone up. In his first six IPL 2024 innings, Virat scored 128 runs in 98 balls against spin, with only four boundaries and seven sixes coming from his bat. He played 28 dot balls against spin and his SR against spin was 130.61.

However, that SRH inning during the chase of 287 runs, sparked a change in his spin game as well. From that knock onwards, Virat has smashed 132 runs in 90 balls against spin, with 11 fours and six sixes coming from his bat. His strike rate also increased to 146.66 against spin and he played 26 dots against the moving ball.

Virat’s overall strike rate against spin in this IPL is 138.29, with 260 runs hit in 188 balls against spin. He has smashed 13 sixes against spin and 15 boundaries. He has played 54 dot balls against spinners.

In the past five seasons, Virat’s overall SR against spin has been: 113.46, 108.08, 100.00, 108.91 and 130.14. His strike rate against spin was at its best in the 2016 season, where he struck at 152.30 and 2015 season, where he scored his runs at 151.21 against spin bowling.

Following his match-winning knock of 92 in just 47 balls against Punjab Kings recently on May 9, Virat had spoken about being more attacking in his approach, bringing out slog sweeps against spinners after a long-time and the idea of self-improvement.

“For me, it is still quality over quantity (on his runs and numbers). More so now, at this stage of my career, heading into 36. The understanding of my game over so many years allows me to practice less, and still stay mentally switched on. And some added challenges in terms of improving your own game. Certain aspects of the game, you want to get better at. It’s an ever-evolving process. I am not a guy who wants to sit around saying ‘this is the way I play’ and not improve on the things I need to,” said Kohli.

Kohli further explained about his slog-sweep shot against the spinners.

“I brought out the slog-sweep to the spinners. It was me mentally putting myself in that situation. I did not practice that at all. I know I can hit it because I have played that shot a lot in the past. So I just felt like I needed to take a bit more risk and for me, that shot was something that I used to hit regularly back in the days. That shot is now allowing me to hit off the backfoot as well. I am always looking to expose that side of the field against the spin. It’s been a massive factor for me in the IPL,” the right-hand batter added.

“It just takes a bit more conviction and put out that thought that props up ‘what if I get out?’. I have been managing to stay ahead of that thought. And that has allowed me to keep my strike rate up in the middle overs and scoring for my team as well,” the Delhi-born player concluded.

This refreshed approach of Virat in T20 cricket, especially against spinners, could just be what India needs on slow surfaces of the Caribbean and it would be interesting if Virat would carry forward his form to the World Cup.

Topics mentioned in this article

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Boost For India Ahead Of T20 World Cup: Virat Kohli Shows Uptick In Strike-Rate, Spin Game In IPL 2nd Half

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