Kohli’s performance in the current test series would depend upon few factors:
- His changed stance would help him to play better on the off side than in the previous series
- Persistence of the English bowlers to bowl outside his off stump and test his patience
- His vulnerability to in-swinging deliveries
- Curbing his instinct to dominate the spinners
- Change in Stance
To his credit, since his last tour of England in 2014, Kohli has made specific corrections to his technique especially for playing the ball which is bowled outside his off stump and that should augur well for him against England. The below images illustrate the change in his stance between then and now.
He is more upright in his stance & better positioned with his back lift to face the ball when the bowler is gathering up to bowl the delivery (The image on the left pertains to the England series in 2014 and the image on the right pertains to the recent SA series in 2017/18). This gives him more time to watch the ball and decide on the shot to play. This is apparent in the image below. He is more balanced and well forward to meet the ball better than before. He can watch the ball under his eye and play with the middle of the bat in the latter stance, compared to the former, where the ball is taking the edge and going to the slips.
The frames below clearly highlight how his changed stance and balance is helping him meet the ball right below his eye with the middle of the bat to execute the Kohlisque Cover drive that we pay money to see often.
B) Line and Length deliveries outside off stump in the first 30 deliveries bowled to Kohli
Kohli’s downfall has been more of a mental aspect and he has been caught fishing outside off stump to wide deliveries on numerous occasions and England bowlers have particularly been very disciplined in the past and have persisted with bowling outside off stump testing his patience. They have hardly bowled anything straight on stumps as he is very good off his legs or bowled full to get driven very easily.
In 2014, English bowlers had bowled close to 85% of the first 30 deliveries that he faced in any innings off stump and further away (beehive on the left in the below figure), with only 15% of the deliveries bowled to him on the legs or so as seen in the below beehive. Kohli in his natural instinct to dominate the bowlers at the start of the innings, has succumbed to this plan.
Reflecting a similar analysis (beehive on the right in the below figure) during the recent tour of South Africa, clearly the South African bowlers gave away 10% more deliveries on the stumps / on side and Kohli has been smart enough to score runs of them. Having scored runs of the bowlers, he is more comfortable leaving the balls outside the off stump which reduces his risk of getting out.
English bowlers in the current series will make sure that they don’t get close to Kohli in terms of both Line and length so that they can be driven easily. While Broad and Anderson have the experience to remain patient, Kohli would be hoping that the pace bowlers following them would give him more balls to play on the on side.
C) Vulnerability of Kohli to in-swingers when mixed with out-swingers
In the recent series in South Africa, Philander worked out Kohli smartly in a two over spell with a series of out swingers (Kohli leaving them alone deliveries in the left of the picture below) and in swingers (Kohli playing similar shot in the right of picture below). Philander ultimately trapped him leg before wicket (3rd image below) with an in-swinger which came in sharply. Kohli in his usual exuberance of being aggressive and sensing an opportunity to score, made an error to play across the line and was trapped in front. In the current English bowlers, Anderson can reproduce the magic that Philander created and Kohli needs to watch out for such a trap that would get laid for him.
D) Kohli’s itchiness to wristwork and dominate the spinners
England’s Adil Rashid / Moeen Ali would be keen to replicate the success they had against Kohli in the recently concluded ODI series. It is not that they took heap of wickets, but the mode of dismissals that should enthuse them. Kohli in the recent past, including the recently concluded IPL, tried to play his favourite wristy flick / on drive and have completely missed the ball to be bowled or trapped in front of the wicket to the spinners. In all the dismissals shown below, his feet and body weight have moved towards the off, and he is trying to manufacture a shot on the onside to deliveries which are closer to his off stump and this had led to his downfall. Kohli needs to curb this instinct given that Rashid and Moeen would be more nervous bowling to him in the longer format and have a point or two to prove in their selection. Once Kohli plays straight, it would be very hard for any spinner to dislodge him.