Virat Kohli has plundered Test runs in virtually every corner of the cricket world but England is a scoring desert for India’s superstar captain ahead of a tricky five-match series.
He returned from his first England series in 2014 with just 134 runs from five Tests, unable to counter swing bowlers. India, with Mahendra Singh Dhoni as captain, lost the series 3-1.
The 29-year-old Kohli is now back in England as reigning International Cricket Council player of the year and the world’s leading batsman with an average of over 53 in 66 Tests.
He has hit 301 runs in six limited-overs matches on the tour.
India won the Twenty20 series and lost the one-day internationals, but Kohli knows that his Test performance — starting in Edgbaston on Wednesday — will be the benchmark of success.
Former India skipper Mohammad Azharuddin said Kohli is a completely different batsman from the last tour and an exemplary leader of the top-ranked Test side in the world.
“At that time, it was his first tour… now he has got so many runs behind him and I think will perform wonderfully well,” Azharuddin told AFP.
“He has led India in so many Test matches so I don’t think he will have any pressure now as far as leadership is concerned.”
Kohli struggled against seam bowlers in 2014 with England paceman James Anderson dismissing the right-handed batsman four times in the series.
– ‘Singularly focused’ –
The Indian skipper has insisted he is not concerned about his personal performances against England, hitting out at critics for putting the spotlight on his 2014 failure.
His form has been noticed in the England camp, however. Anderson said the Indian captain was “telling lies” by saying his own runs do not matter.
“For India to win here, of course it matters. Virat will be desperate to score runs for his team, as you would expect from the captain and one of the best players in the world,” Anderson told the Press Trust of India news agency in London.
Azharuddin backed Kohli’s view that the team’s performance is more important.
“Cricket is not a game of one individual. It doesn’t work like that. Everybody has to score runs one person can’t win you a game,” said the cricketer-turned-politician.
“If the ball is seaming, batsmen in both teams will struggle. But having said that, India have a great chance of winning in England this time.”
Boria Majumdar, a top Indian cricket analyst, also backed Kohli to shine in England.
“Virat is singularly focused on this England series. This Test series matters to him a hell of a lot,” Majumdar told AFP.
“He knows that there are certain things he needs to do to establish himself in the league of legends as far as Test batsmen… (are) concerned and one of those things is to score in England.
“I am predicting Kohli to score whatever the conditions but I am predicting Kohli to score multiple hundreds if the ball doesn’t swing.”