Rufus Bullough examines VIrat Kohli’s contrasting 2014 and 2018 tours of England.
All the way back in 2014, when Virat Kohli first graced these shores, the English seam bowling attack made him look amateurish. Across the five match series, he couldn’t buy a run, with peak power Jimmy Anderson consistently having Virat under his spell. Fast forward four years, and Kohli dominated the English seam bowlers, and in particular, dominated Jimmy Anderson. So how did he do it and what did he change?
One distinguishable difference between 2014 Kohli and his 2018 incarnation, is his average impact point against pace bowling. The impact point is defined as the distance from the stumps where the batsman makes contact with the ball.
In 2014 his average impact point with the ball was 1.88m from the stumps – in 2018 this moved forward to 2.33m from the stumps, a movement forward of nearly half a metre. Kohli was taking the attack to the bowlers and being far more positive with his movement. By meeting the ball earlier down the pitch he was able to negate, to a degree, any lateral movement the bowlers found.
What makes this transformation against pace even more impressive is the fact that the English seam bowlers found more average seam movement in the 2018 series (0.74° avg), compared to 2014 (0.62° avg). By intercepting the ball further down the pitch and closer to where the ball was pitching, he was able to minimise the distance the ball deviates off the pitch, and therefore reduce the number of edges/missed deliveries he faced.
Kohli’s average impact position has by and large been getting further and further away from the stumps year after year.
Against all bowling types in the 2018 series, Kohli’s false shot percentage was actually higher than it was in 2014. His false shots per wicket was almost four times higher in 2018 than it was in 2014. This basically means Virat was making just as many mistakes, but the edges were not going to hand as much as they did in 2014. In simple terms, he was luckier in 2018.
Kohli and Anderson’s battles over the two series is another interesting talking point. Anderson completely dominated Kohli in the 2014 series, but struggled comparatively in 2018 despite drawing a similar false shot percentage.
Anderson drew a false shot from Kohli just nine times in the 2014 series, and picked up four wickets. In 2018, Anderson drew 48 false shots, and failed to pick up a single wicket.
A combination of a proactive technical change, coupled with the dice falling kindly, contributed to the masterful display of batting prowess we saw from Kohli in 2018. Three years on, the Indian skipper is older and wiser and more battle hardened than ever. How he combats Anderson, Broad, Robinson and Curran in this game and throughout the series will no doubt have all of us glued to our screens.
Rufus Bullough is an analyst for CricViz