In 2014, gazing back at run-filled recent past of Virat Kohli, it seems almost a surprise to be reminded that India’s new run-machine spent two Tests on the bench on the disastrous 2011 tour of England where he joined the squad to replace the injured Yuvraj Singh. While it’s true, Kohli will play an entirely different role in 2014 English summer, where he is expected to be the chief source of runs for a success-hungry India.
In the presence of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman on that ignominious 2011 tour, no room could be created for Kohli in the initial squad; and despite a run that kept getting worse with every Test and finally ended in a 4-0 rout of the visitors, he was not included in the eleven.
But something happened for Kohli on the next equally damaging tour of Australia. One bright spot in another 4-0 whitewash was Kohli’s maiden Test hundred at Adelaide, when, batting at No. 6, the Delhiite turned a new leaf with a knock of 106 and has thereafter been a different batsman.
Since then, Kohli, 25, has struck five more centuries in a 24-Test career, averaging a healthy 46.51 with 1721 runs in the bank. But what that Adelaide hundred did to Kohli was add conviction to the belief that his talent was not confined to flat beds at home but can tame overseas conditions as well.
The tours of New Zealand and South Africa saw that turning into reality. Centuries at Johannesburg (119) and Wellington (105*) may not have won India a Test, but gave a country desperately searching for a new icon someone who could carry hopes in Tendulkaresque fashion. And he hasn’t disappointed since moving into Tendulkar’s No. 4 slot post November 16, 2013.
Getting into Kohli’s shoes, he wouldn’t have forgotten what he saw from that dressing room chair at Edgbaston and The Oval in 2011. India tanked on that tour and the big reason was lack of runs, other than Rahul Dravid’s three centuries.
Dravid has been the epitome of countering difficult foreign tracks and conditions in copybook fashion, and at the behest of the team management, he has agreed to give the team a pep talk ahead of the first Test starting July 9.
There can’t be a better man for the Indian batsmen to bank upon for cues to succeed in England. Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Gautam Gambhir are expected to do the bulk of scoring for India, and they will do well to hang onto Dravid’s words.