Sports

Saba Karim: All Batsmen Struggle With Form, Virat Kohli Is Not Alone

Saba Karim, former Indian wicketkeeper and right-handed batsman, talks about Virat Kohli, why batsmen struggle with form, and the importance for a sportsperson to have a conducive environment on and off the field

Saba Karim: All Batsmen Struggle With Form, Virat Kohli Is Not Alone
info_icon

Saba Karim, former Indian wicket-keeper and right-handed batsman, tells Peerzada Muzamil about his gameplan, Virat Kohli, why batsmen struggle with form, and the importance for a sportsperson to have a conducive environment on and off the field. Excerpts:

Why does a batsman lose his touch or experience notable slumps when it comes to form? For instance, Virat Kohli has been struggling recently.

It is difficult to put a finger on one thing. Every sportsperson experiences such slumps in their career. Knowing what one must do in order to face these slumps is the key. Although easier said than done, eventually one has to follow certain processes to recover from this kind of slump. Cricketers have their tried-and-tested methods of preparation, hard work that they have followed for many years, and all answers lie there. The international cricketing arena is fierce, ruthless and competitive, and the opposition relentlessly goes through your strengths and weaknesses with such diligent concentration that they can figure out the chinks in the armour of a player.

It is more important to address a particular area of concern that causes one to regularly fail. If a batsman is able to analyse a pattern of dismissals, he can address it soon. Basically, plug all the holes that the opposition can exploit and use against you. A batsman needs to reconstruct his gameplan and technique, get back to the drawing board, spend more time with the coaches, and try and analyse the game to weed out any weaknesses from his stroke play that makes him vulnerable.

Ace bowlers like Anderson, Starc, Broad, Boult and Hazelwood always focus on that ‘fishing’ line outside the off stump. Kohli has faced this a lot. Is that a general weakness for all the batsmen?

Yes, it is not just with Kohli. All cricketing giants have struggled at some point with the line outside the off stump. It is deadly when the ball is swinging away from you at a pace of 90 miles an hour. Fast bowlers stick to this line, and try to lure and trap batters into playing a stroke that ultimately edges off to the wicketkeeper or into the slips. What’s important here is that this dismissal becomes more deadly when a batsman repeatedly fails at it. The opposition is dedicated to consistently utilise this weakness. When this dismissal pattern starts working for the bowler, the batsman’s confidence plummets and erodes. It has happened with so many players and it will continue to be so. Nothing new about it.

If a batsman is able to analyse a pattern of dismissals, he can address it soon. Basically, plug all the holes that the opposition can exploit and use against you.

Players like Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have struggled with their form for some time now. Their stats are even more worrying than Kohli’s. Then why has Kohli become the centre of all criticism?

You possibly can’t equate Rohit or Shikhar with Kohli. He has set higher benchmarks and is a match-winner across all three formats. When you perform so well consistently, you rise above normal standards. You become big. The bigger you become, the more attention you receive. That is why Kohli’s slump is receiving a lot of media limelight nowadays.

Kohli has turned 33. Do you think age influences a player’s performance?

Absolutely. Age plays a huge factor in performance. But that does not necessarily deter you from being a consistent performer. With age, it is natural that batters need to adapt to new techniques and work on things that work or don’t work for them. I believe Kohli is mature and sensible enough to understand that there comes a stage in your career where you need to make some changes to your technique in order to encounter the natural ageing process. The biggest example of adaptability is Sachin. He played for a long time because he kept overhauling his technique. If Sachin did it, Kohli can do it too. And it is not just cricket. Athletes from all disciplines have to face this situation.

Does the environment of the dressing room impact a player who is struggling with form?

Of course, it helps to have a proper, conducive environment in or around the dressing room. But eventually it does boil down to the ability of the team management to help a cricketer to perform. Especially if it is a player who has been consistent and of Kohli’s stature. If the management feels that a player holds too much value, they will try and create a conducive environment, as this plays a key role in bringing back the player’s confidence, and ultimately the form, as soon as possible.

Kohli’s crisis with the BCCI made many headlines, most of them unpleasant. So, does the faltering relationship with the Board affect the mental space of a cricketer and impede his performance?

It does, at times. But it is a very individual kind of an attitude. Some people take it very well, and take it as a challenge and get spurred to do better. Others get affected in different ways. That’s why I believe the team management and environment in the dressing room need to be healthy. It is the team management that comes forward and protects the player from any issues. I’m sure with the current team, with Rahul Dravid and Rohit Sharma, who are highly matured and experienced, things will move in a smooth fashion. They must have gone through such kind of problems during their own days, and from personal experience they would, I’m sure, try and help Kohli or other players get out of this crisis as soon as possible. 

Advertisement

(This appeared in the print edition as "‘All Batsmen Struggle With Form, Virat is Not Alone’")

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement