One good innings is all that stands between India’s star batsman Virat Kohli and the gaping bad patch in form, according to former Team India captain Mohammad Azharuddin. Kohli’s extended lean patch has now paved way for doubt about the fate and future of the 33-year-old former Test captain.
In a candid interview to Outlook, Azharuddin, a veteran of 99 test matches, also said that ups and downs are common in cricket, stressing that age is not a factor for team selection, as long as Kohli is fit enough for the upcoming T20 World Cup.
Concentration, said the middle-order batsman who has 22 Test centuries to his credit, is the key to revival of Kohli’s cricketing fortunes.
“Just concentrate. One good innings would give him confidence. (Kohli should) focus on what he is capable of. He is a great batter and I am confident he will get back into his groove soon,” Azharuddin says.
The Hyderabad-born cricketer, who was known for his wristy shots, also said that Kohli’s lean patch, which has seen him without a test century for nearly two years, cannot be attributed to any one specific reason.
“It is difficult to single out any one factor to attribute to Kohli’s bad phase. Ups and downs are common in cricket and like many of his fans, I feel he will bounce back soon to prove what he is capable of,” the 59-year-old ex-cricketer says.
A darling of Indian and world cricket fans, Kohli has had his share of detractors too, who now want the talismanic former captain to be dropped from India’s campaign in the upcoming T20 World Cup, which is scheduled to be held in Australia in October this year. Azharuddin, however, disagrees with this rhetoric.
“No. I will not endorse any such demand that he should not be considered for the T20 World Cup. In all fairness, the task of picking up the best Indian team job should be left to the selectors. No one should influence the selectors, as the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket of India) has reposed confidence in them. Let them do what they are supposed to. Still, I am also not against either cricket writers or fans criticising the selection committee,” he says. Azharuddin currently serves as the president of the Hyderabad Cricket Association.
When asked whether, with age, a batsman needs to change his approach towards the game as well as technique, Azharuddin said that age is not a factor for Kohli, as long as he is fit.
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“So what? If he is fit and undergoes all tests to prove that he can still be considered, none should object. And I don’t think selectors need anyone to convince them, to decide either way on any player, leave alone Virat,” he says.
The lanky Azharuddin, who was known for his quick reflexes and a stringent fitness regime during his days on the field, reflexively dropped a question related to Kohli’s commitment to fitness.
“As far as my fitness is concerned, I followed certain diet restrictions and workouts during my playing days, as you have mentioned, to keep myself fit. But as a professional sportsperson, it is unfair on my part to either advise others or comment on Virat’s fitness schedules. He is a world-class, recognised batter and needs no advice,” he says.
Explaining the perilous vagaries of being a popular sportsman, Azharuddin said that as long as one is consistently successful, there is applause…
“As long you score consistently, remain focused on your game, obviously everyone will acknowledge that you are in great form. The media too will lift to you to the hilt. As far as my batting abilities are concerned, it was our cricket commentators who described me as a wristy player. I played every shot that’s in the book and also faced some of the best bowlers. Beyond this, I would not like to blow my own trumpet as many cricket lovers gave me so much of support and love,” he says.
Circumstances and temperament define the style of play, he says.
“As a batter, I used to choose my shots according to circumstances. Obviously, no batter would like to be reckless, going after every ball. If you do that, you may have to pay the price. It all depends on your temperament,” he says.
(This appeared in the print edition as "'One Good Innings is All it Takes’")