What went wrong with the Virat Kohli slump?
After scoring his third century of the IPL 2016 in Royal Challengers Bangalore’s annual green-jersey match against Gujarat Lions, Virat Kohli exclaimed, “During the last match (against Mumbai Indians), I told Daniel Vettori (then RCB coach) that I felt like I could hit every ball of the first over from Tim Southee for a six.”
In a trip he had just started, Kohli had already climbed previously unimaginable peaks. He entered that year’s IPL having, only three months into 2016, smashed the T20 International record for the most runs in a calendar year.
When Kohli’s toe ended a pull shot off a bouncer from Prasidh Krishna that was thrown to a backward point in 2022, he cut a despondent figure. After inside-edging three consecutive nip backers and nearly flicking another one straight to the short square leg during a rocky 10-ball stay, he just about made it to that point in the inning.
In his previous five games, he has made scores of 1, 12, 0, 0, and 9, and after nine games this season, his average stands at a pitiful 16. In terms of body language, the Virat Kohli of 2016 was indistinguishable from the one we see now.
What led to Kohli’s decline throughout this time, from his peak in 2016 to his low point in 2022? Was he a product of his era, unable to change his style as the game advanced?
In the same interview, Kohli provided some insight into his strategy: “Since I can get 40–45 runs in the following 15 balls, I don’t mind playing run-a-ball for the first 20–25 balls. I’m more confident now that I can knock sixes or find spaces for boundaries in the last over.”
He was a classic anchor who saw off the new ball, got his eye in, consolidated in the middle phase, and hit all he had left in the tank in the final phase. One of Kohli’s strengths was his incredible stamina, which allowed him to bat in the middle of an innings in the 20th over and still appear to be in top form.
In the 15 IPL 2016 innings he played as the opener, Kohli scored a respectable 123 in the Powerplay but was only bowled out three times. He had an unremarkable strike rate of 119 during the first 20 balls of the IPL 2016 inning. In the middle overs, Kohli quickened the pace and scored at a strike rate of 150, creating a strong foundation for the attack to be launched in the final few overs.
For the most part, Kohli played it safe, batted for long stretches of innings, and only let free when absolutely necessary. He had a new task for the 2020 UAE season. He had to drop to number three since RCB would be starting Devdutt Padikkal and Aaron Finch instead of him, who had opened in three-fourths of the tournaments during the previous five years. This required him to begin his innings regularly following the lifting of the fielding limitations, and mostly against spinners.
His number of boundaries decreased as a result, and his strike rate for the first 20 balls of this season dropped to under one run per ball. In 2021, he switched back to the opening position and started off well against spinners, but after that, his boundaries dried up and his strike rate fell.