IPL 2022: What should we make of Virat Kohli's maiden fifty?

Virat Kohli made his slowest 50+ score in the T20s against Gujarat Titans.
 
Virat Kohli made a fifty after 14 innings in the IPL.
Virat Kohli's slow innings against Gujarat Titans raised several eyebrows.

Before his innings against Gujarat Titans last game, Virat Kohli had accumulated only 22 runs at an appalling average of 4.4 in the five games prior to that. Those 22 runs came at a meagre 75.9 strike rate, with two golden ducks only compounding his dry run further. Kohli, who had been piling runs for fun his whole career, seems perplexed of late with runs drying up across formats.

Cometh Saturday (30 April), all the limelight was on the former RCB skipper Virat Kohli. While he has probably dealt with greater pressure earlier in his glorious career, this was poles apart from all those. His dolorous smile after the dismissal - against Rajasthan Royals last game - pretty much summed up his desperation for runs.

In the very first over of the innings, he hit two persuasive boundaries against Mohammed Shami. In the next over, the captain Faf du Plessis departed on duck, and the pressure on Kohli exacerbated. But, one would still expect him to provide stability to the innings.

Virat Kohli also managed to do so to a large extent in the powerplay. After the powerplay, he was sitting on 27 (21) with the help of five boundaries. The pitch looked good for batting, with the ball coming on pretty nicely on the bat.

That's pretty customary for him. This has been his method of constructing a T20 innings over a large period. He takes his time to settle in before launching a remorseless attack on the opponent.

Even in his peak year in 2016, he stuck to this tried and tested method. It also brought him a lot of success consistently in the shortest format. The 33-years old looked all set to play another Kohli-Esque knock at Brabourne.

But then something abrupt happened, which again gave a glimpse of Kohli's form. While everyone expected him to pace on post powerplay, he rather slowed down significantly. At a point, he even struggled to rotate the strike in the middle overs.

Kohli has had problems against the wrist-spinner and was sedate against Rashid Khan consequently. He scored 9 runs in 10 balls with minimal risk. This wasn't much of a concern either given that it was Rashid, a bowler against whom the approach was warranted.

But, his intent and shot selection (somewhat) against the speedsters was definitely bewildering. He had a strike rate of 100 and hit only two boundaries (a four and a six) against the pacers post powerplay. Moreover, he also played 40.91% dot balls.

This was so unlike Kohli. His whole white-ball game is renowned for his consistent strike rotation and minimising dot balls. But this is not vintage Kohli, not even anywhere close to that.

In the eighth over, Kohli didn't score any run off the first four balls against Lockie Ferguson. On the fifth ball, he went very hard on the uppercut, which eventually flew to the third man, only to get a single. Kohli, who could find gaps blindfolded at a time, struggled to even sneak a single.

In the following overs, he was rushed severely by the pace and bounce of Ferguson and Joseph. He could have looked to play a bit more on the off-side region. He tried to drag every ball towards the on-side region unnecessarily.

He didn’t try hitting many aerial shots either even on the hittable balls. With each passing ball, he kept losing his shape a bit more. Obviously, he tried hard to provide impetus to his innings but could barely succeed.

Still, he somehow managed to reach a fifty on the 45th ball in the 13th over. This was the slowest fifty of the season at that point, which was eventually broken by Jos Buttler (48 balls) in the night game against Mumbai Indians. This was also the slowest fifty-plus score of his T20 career.

Not many times does a batter batting with Virat Kohli appear finer at the crease. But Rajat Patidar, who made a quality fifty, looked way better throughout. Kohli looked to wallop the ball instead of backing his skills - timing and placing them in the gaps.

Any batter going through as rough a phase as Kohli would do that, and he is no exception. The Delhi-born player clearly looked to retrieve his lost form and touch in this innings.

While the management would perhaps have liked a bit more intent from him, they will take it as a hope; a hope of Kohli gradually returning back to his destructive self and the hope of Kohli being consistent again. Expecting him to do so won't be a big ask either.

RCB management has constantly been supportive of him. Even in their second-last game against Rajasthan Royals, he was consistently involved in the leadership group during the breaks. The team has done every possible thing to help Kohli regain his confidence.

"That was a huge step in the right direction (on Kohli scoring runs). Cricket is a massive game of confidence and it'll be huge. To get a solid fifty, it's big for him and for us, something that we can take forward," said Faf du Plessis during the post-match presentation.

Obviously, there are different ways to look at this knock. One section will ascribe his monotonous innings as a chief reason for RCB's innings, which is completely understandable too. That innings was far from ideal for a T20 match.

It will hurt more given the nature of the pitch and the fact that RCB needed as many points as they could gather this late in the season. The surface was pretty good for batting and stroke play in general. The other batters looked pretty comfortable too.

Undeniably, Kohli's knock restricted RCB to a below-average total in the end. He could have attacked a lot more, especially after the 10th over. He didn't hit any boundary in his last 17 balls.

While Kohli did score runs, he didn’t look to have found his mojo back. But, this knock did give encouraging signs. RCB would want him to only ascend from here on as they reach the business end of the tournament.