If you ask a batsman where their off-stump is, they will tell you. But nobody quite ‘knows’ where their off stump is when they play a delivery. Virat Kohli is not one of those batsmen. He really ‘knows’ what it is to play a delivery which is on his off stump and one that is just outside the line. He leaves freely, without confusion and when he strikes, it is graceful, flowing like the wind; picture perfect.
It’s not easy to make him ‘play’ at a delivery. Either he is unsure or he is sure about what that delivery is going to do. There is no feeling for the ball or an attempt to reach out. There is no dabbling in unusual strokeplay, trying to play away from his body. His patience far outshines anyone playing the game today but his confidence even outweighs that exemplary facet. And his focus? Even greater.
It was a chanceless innings from the Indian maestro against Bangladesh from dusk on Day One through to late noon on Day Two before he fell to a loose delivery from Ebadat Hossain. Before that he had scored 136 runs and if Taijul Islam had not taken that scorcher of a catch, plucking it out of thin air at square-leg, Kohli would certainly have added some more.
Every delivery, he would shuffle in his own manner, his movement fast and ferocious, a still mind and then the ball arrives at his doorstep. Whatever shot he plays from there on in, his body does not move. It remains still; the initial adjustments have paid off. The right-hand forearm guides and the left hand directs the angle, the body weight transfers and there is energy. He remains still, like a picture. That is his stance, and his most noticeable trademark as he flows through a shot.
Bangladesh coach Russell Domingo had drawn upon Kohli’s abilities to point out the gulf between the two teams. However, there was no comparison. Kohli is in a class of his own. Yet, his innings was exemplary.
One cannot possibly expect that level of confidence from a Bangladesh batsman, especially against a pace attack breathing fire like India’s. However, the technical adjustments had to be learned from.
Most Bangladesh batsman failed to get in line with deliveries. The pink ball moved more during the evenings. Kohli had batted under the lights, his stance water tight. Bangladesh openers Imrul Kayes and Shadman Islam shuffled, but yet failed to get in line. They were searching for the ball, footwork not adequate for Tests.
Mahmudullah Riyad, one of Bangladesh’s most successful batsman yesterday at dusk before retiring hurt with a hamstring injury on 39 runs, had to change his stance to cope with the pace and the delivery outside the off stump. It was certainly a way to go but one that would render him unable to move to an in-dipper. There are small adjustments one might make, even Kohli. But Test cricket sniffs out weaknesses and there lies the gulf.
It is not ability but how to hide potential weaknesses that makes a good Test batsman. The Tigers still have a long way to go in that regard.