In all, Kohli played out 16 dot balls on Wednesday. That it came on the back of Glenn Maxwell’s run out in the previous over, after a horrible misjudgment from Kohli, added to the side’s woes. Royal Challengers eventually managed 173, thanks to breezy knocks from uncapped pair of Rajat Patidar and Mahipal Lomror.
“For a while, for 10 or 15 runs, he wasn’t even going at a run-a-ball, or he was just going at a run-a-ball,” Bishop said on T20 Time:Out, ESPNcricinfo’s analysis show. “He didn’t get ahead, and there wasn’t much intent. He hit one [six] over extra-cover off the seamer, and that was when he just went ahead to a run-a-ball and then he came back.
“This is something we’ve been seeing with Virat, not just this season. Even last season, I remember, and even sometimes internationally, he’ll fly out – he didn’t fly out tonight – and then he’ll slow down again. So, I’m concerned.
“Roston Chase got him out in the West Indies series [at home in February], we saw him getting out to the offspinner in Test matches. So, I’m concerned about…and I’m a Kohli fan. I tune in to watch cricket when Kohli’s at his best, so it isn’t criticism but an observation that I am concerned that a number of types of bowlers are getting him out and he’s not getting ahead of the rate.”
“It comes down to intent: at no stage did Kohli look like he was going for anything but a single. So, you plant foot down the crease, and you wait for the ball to come. If the ball is in the right spot, you can’t manipulate a single”
Daniel Vettori on Kohli’s dismissal on Wednesday
Equally concerning, Bishop believes, is Kohli’s apparent struggle to break free. Despite this, Royal Challengers posted one of their better starts this season – 57 without loss in the powerplay, as opposed to their average run-rate of 6.58, the lowest among all 10 teams coming into the game.
“If you’re not getting ahead of the rate and going at a run-a-ball, you need to bat deep into the innings,” he said. “And he isn’t going deep into the innings either. So those deliveries don’t come back to you. Even if RCB won, that wasn’t an innings, even given the difficulties of the pitch, that you could say caused a match-winning total.”
“I can think of the likes of a R Ashwin or a Harbhajan [Singh] bowling really quickly to him in the powerplay and him just looking for singles, and potentially not dominating them. But this is different,” Vettori said. “This is Moeen Ali trying to spin the ball, wide of off stump and I feel like I can see that dismissal a few times in Test matches.
“And that is a huge amount of credit to Moeen Ali and his style of bowling – the fact that he was able to hit those areas with a little bit of drift, then that quick spin. So, this type of bowling seems to have troubled him a little bit as of now. It is a great ball. It’s a fantastic piece of bowling and the surface allowed it to happen and the fact that Kohli was looking only for singles allowed it to happen as well.”
Moeen showed what Super Kings missed mid-season after he was forced to sit out a few games due to an ankle niggle. His control and the ability to assess conditions quickly, and then vary his pace and loop as per the surface. This one in Pune offered plenty of bite.
Sometimes as a spinner, the key on these surfaces isn’t to get carried away and, as the cliché goes, to keep things simple. Moeen did just that and finished with 2 for 28 off four overs. By the time Moeen had bowled out by the 14th, the Royal Challengers were on rebuild mode.
“We’ve got to say that it was a very good spell of bowling from Moeen Ali,” Vettori said. “I mean when an offspinner can put that much pressure on a right-handed batsman trying to get singles, trying not even look to be aggressive towards him, showed that the pace that Moeen Ali was bowling. And it [pitch] had quick spin, I think that’s the thing that might separate this surface, that it did spin quickly.
“But it just feels like it comes down to intent: at no stage did Kohli look like he was going for anything but a single. So, you plant foot down the crease, and you wait for the ball to come. If the ball is in the right spot, you can’t manipulate a single.
“And Kohli at his best takes on offspin because he’s aggressive, he hits them straight, and then he hits his hard ones. So, it is all about intent. And maybe the loss of the wicket, the run-out of Maxwell just put him back in his cage, and he thought ‘I need to bat for an extended period of time’. But he is good enough to use his feet against Moeen Ali.”
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo