Raved and revered for his sublime batting skills, Virat Kohli has painted a shambolic, contrasting picture with his willow in the ongoing tour of England. With scores of 1, 8, 25, 0, 39, 28, 0,7, 6 and 20 in the five Tests, the batsman averaged 13.50 in his ten innings. If ODIs promised a reprieve for the otherwise flamboyant batsman, scores of 0, 40, 1* and 13 pointed to the blatant opposite. (India Win ODI Series 3-1)
For a cricketer touted as India's next captain, Kohli's batting has been in ruins with hardly any of his knocks - in whites or in the blue jersey - evoking any sense of confidence. Edgy at best and close to quivering at worst, the 26-year-old ensured that his wicket was one that England could take for granted. In fact, the only other 'consistency' he showed - besides walking back to the pavilion in earnest rush - was falling to both spin as well as pace without any partiality. So as Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes joined the celebrations in ODIs after James Anderson had claimed Kohli on four occasions in the Tests, fans looked elsewhere for a hero.
While not many batsmen stood up to take honours in the Tests, Kohli's was - arguably - the worst effort. The effort - rather the lack of it - was even more evident in ODIs as the other young turks, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan scored by the dozen.
Form may be a rollercoaster but for Kohli, the ride has been a heady downward spiral for some time now. "I think all he (Kohli) has got to do is have a little bit of discipline, have a little bit of patience," former India cricketer Sunil Gavaskar had told NDTV after the first innings of the Southamton Test. "Kohli is too good a player. But like all good players go through a lean patch, maybe this is a lean patch for him. But let's hope for Indian cricket's sake that he gets out of it and scores." The hope, the wait continues and has almost given way to despair.
A slump on the cricket field also has its fall-outs off the pitch. That girlfriend - Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma - was by his side during the initial part of the Tests, came under enormous scrutiny as well.
Out went Anushka and in walked new team director Ravi Shastri - the transition hardly pumping up Kohli on the field. So, even as Rahane and Dhawan credited Shastri for inspiring the team and infusing confidence, the Delhi batsman barely managed to camouflage his poor form behind the shadows cast by India's ODI triumphs.
The World Cup is a little over five months away. While Sachin Tendulkar may feel that Team India is ready to defend its title Down Under, Kohli's current form is bad enough to give his fans sleepless nights galore. And while the team as a unit may be a formidable force, the best of armours can be taken apart due to the smallest of chinks. For Kohli then, the need to get battle-ready is urgent. For India, the need to have him firing is inarguable. For cricket, it's action as usual - runs or wickets.