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Is the Asia Cup 2022 Make or Break for Virat Kohli?

With over 1000 days since India’s Virat Kohli last scored an international century, we look at how important it is for the superstar to regain form at the Asia Cup 2022.

Posted Date: Aug 28, 2022

Posted By: Kavin

Is the Asia Cup 2022 Make or Break for Virat Kohli?
Is the Asia Cup 2022 Make or Break for Virat Kohli?

There’s an argument to be made that Virat Kohli is the greatest cricket player to have ever walked the planet.

Having represented India 463 times across cricket’s three formats, Kohli is the proud owner of 8074 Test runs, 12,344 ODI runs and 3308 T20I runs. Add in his 70 international centuries, the 213 times he has captained his country plus a plethora of other records he holds, and there’s no doubting Kohli is a once in a generation kind of player.

At the very least, he’s in the conversation for greatest of all time, with a select few who have played the game.

Trouble is, despite the jaw-dropping figures beside his name, Virat Kohli is in a significant dry patch of his career.

With the Asia Cup 2022 starting this weekend, and the 2022 T20 World Cup just around the corner, is there a danger of Kohli being dropped if he fails to perform?

The Slump of Virat Kohli

It has now officially been 1007 days since Virat Kohli last scored an international century.

Since then, the superstar has struggled to find his best touch with the cricket bat, across all formats of the game.

To understand Kohli form slump in numbers, here’s a look at his purple patch in international cricket from 2016-2019, compared to his last 18 months’ numbers:

  2016-2019 Past 18 months
Innings 240 66
Average 65.7 26.25
100s 41 0
50s 63 12
Ducks 13 7

Clearly, the Kohli which has been taking the field over the last few years has been a shadow of the Kohli which established himself as the world’s most in-form batsman between 2016-2019.

Notably, Kohli’s average is well under half of what is was when he was in form. With an average of 26.25 over the last 18 months, Kohli’s performances have been well below the standards required of most international batsman that represent their countries, let alone playing for a cricketing behemoth such as India.

While centuries and half centuries used to be a matter of regularity for Kohli, they are now a rarity. 104 times he crossed the 50 or 100 mark in international cricket between 2016-2019—recently, he’s only done it 12 times, with no centuries since November 2019.

Add to this a poor strike rate, even at the domestic level—118.20 for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 2022 IPL—and Kohli’s selection in any team begins to look like more of a hindrance, rather than an asset.

Is Kohli in Danger of Being Dropped if He Doesn’t Perform Soon?

With such a run of poor form, the question must be raised: Is Kohli’s position in the Indian side at risk?

This is an interesting question, because the reality is, Kohli hasn’t really featured in the Indian team much this year.

It’s been 42 days since he last pulled on a blue jersey, having been rested for the West Indies and Zimbabwe tours. Even before this, Kohli had only played four T20 internationals since the last T20 World Cup, sitting out 20 of them.

And there’s the thing: India have been doing fantastic without their former captain.

Rohit Sharma and either Rishabh Pant or Suryakumar Yadav have been opening the batting, and other players such as Deepak Hooda, Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya have enjoyed an extra slot being available in the batting line up.

In fact, after struggling to score quickly and post big totals batting first, India have raced to their best strike rate ever in a calendar year in T20Is—145.49 so far.

With a wealth of in-form players who are striking the ball well from the first over, bringing Kohli back into the side does pose a challenge. Should he use up valuable balls and fail to score big enough, or at a fast enough strike rate, his presence in the side will be a liability.

However, while India certainly don’t need Virat Kohli to win T20I matches, chances are they will still want him because of the star potential and experience he possesses.

What the Cricket World is Saying

Given the high profile of Virat Kohli, and his evident failure over the past few years, many big names in the cricket world have spoken up to give their two cents on the matter.

Australia’s Shane Watson recently stated,

“He’s too good not to be able to find his groove. It’ll only take him a couple of balls, get into the battle again, and away he goes. This month that he’s had off cricket will make sure that that light’s shining very bright going into this Asia Cup, knowing there’s a T20 World Cup in Australia coming up as well.”

President of the BCCI Sourav Ganguly has also declared,

“Let him practice, let him play matches. He is a big player and has scored plenty of runs. I am hopeful that he will make a comeback. He is just not being able to score a century and I believe he will find his form in the Asia Cup.”

Former Indian all-rounder Irfan Pathan has spoken up as well, affirming that Kohli’s form is critical for India moving forward, stating,

“As far as the mind is concerned, what Virat Kohli will be thinking, what kind of mindset he will be coming in with and playing the matches, I think yes, Asia Cup is very, very important… Indian team needs Virat Kohli in top form. He comes back from Asia Cup in top form, I think it's a win-win situation for Virat Kohli and the Indian team.”

Our Verdict: Is the Asia Cup 2022 Make or Break for Kohli?

No. The Asia Cup 2022 is not make or break for Virat Kohli.

While both India and Kohli are desperate for the star to regain his form through this tournament, the reality is, should Kohli continue to struggle, he’s still highly likely to make India’s 2022 T20 World Cup squad.

Sure, he may miss a game or two, if he doesn’t hit top form soon.

However, the nature of World Cups means it would be ludicrous for India to not take a player like Kohli, despite his form. Tournaments like this are planned for years out, not months, and as a world-class, senior player, Kohli will have been an integral part of India’s planning for a long time. These kinds of decision don’t change last minute, except when driven by injury.

Besides, the biggest players step up on the biggest stages.

Even if Kohli doesn’t regain his form at the Asia Cup 2022, maybe he is saving his best for last, and we’ll see the Kohli of old at the 2022 T20 World Cup?