Virat Kohli says he’s playing his best Twenty20 cricket again but at 34 the superstar batsman is running out of time to win the Indian Premier League. Kohli scored another century for Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday — his second in as many matches — and he now has seven IPL tons, more than any other player. But his 101 not out wasn’t enough. Gujarat Titans won by six wickets as they, Chennai, Mumbai and Lucknow went through to the playoffs of the world’s biggest T20 tournament.
“A lot of people think that my T20 cricket is declining. I don’t feel like that at all,” Kohli said afterwards. “I think I am playing my best T20 cricket again.”
That might be so, but for Kohli and Bangalore it was just the latest IPL failure. The franchise has never won the title in 16 attempts — they were runners-up three times — since the tournament began in 2008.
Kohli was Bangalore skipper for nine of those seasons and at the end of the 2021 edition he decided to give up leading the team. That was in the midst of a tough period for Kohli when the magic with the bat deserted him and he admitted to mental health struggles.
In 2020 he had relinquished the Indian T20 captaincy after a disastrous World Cup and was sacked as ODI skipper. He then quit as Test captain. Kohli admitted later that he would “fake intensity” to put up a brave front and that he became “snappy” to his Bollywood actress wife Anushka Sharma.
“When I left (the) Test captaincy I got messages only from MS Dhoni and nobody else,” Kohli said last September.
“A lot of people have my number and say things on TV, but no one sent me a message.”
A fresh-faced 19-year-old Kohli made his India debut the same year the IPL started and became the fastest batsman to reach 10,000 ODI runs in 2018. As Test skipper he brought India to the top of the rankings and in 2019 led his team to a first-ever Test series triumph in Australia.
But his lean patch saw him not manage a century in any format for almost two years until he broke the drought at the Asia Cup last September with an unbeaten 122 against Afghanistan. He followed this up in October with 82 not out in a stunning win over Pakistan at the T20 World Cup in Australia, an innings dubbed the “Miracle in Melbourne” which even won grudging respect from India’s arch rival.
Kohli hasn’t looked back, scoring three ODI hundreds in four matches and then in March his first Test century in over three years, against Australia in Ahmedabad.
In this IPL, Kohli and Bangalore skipper Faf du Plessis were one of the most dependable opening pairs, knocking up more than 1,000 runs together. The South African top-scored in the regular season. with Kohli third.
But except for Australian smasher Glenn Maxwell, the lower order failed to fire, in particular specialist finisher Dinesh Karthik. Bangalore’s bowlers also failed to perform when it really counted.
“I think we are a little bit light in the middle order if we were honest with ourselves,” Du Plessis said.
“We missed a few runs consistently throughout the season, especially at the back end of the innings.”
“And I think from a bowling perspective, we were really good and consistent throughout the powerplay. In the middle (overs) perhaps we didn’t get as many wickets as we would have liked,” he said after Sunday’s defeat.
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