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Is Virat Kohli back to his best in the IPL?

Virat Kohli is in top form in the competition and is leading the late charge by the Challengers in the tournament.

He is the leading run-getter of the season. No one has crossed fifty more times in the tournament. He is striking them big in the powerplay. He is slog-sweeping the spinners. Virat Kohli is in top form in the competition and is leading the late charge by the Challengers in the tournament. With the World Cup barely three weeks away, it is worth asking – is this the best of Kohli – the batter – in the IPL? What are the attributes which stand out in this edition? How do the numbers stack up against 2016?

Virat Kohli is leading the Orange Cap race in IPL 2024.(PTI)

600+ runs in a season

Kohli reached a rare milestone during his scintillating 92 against the Punjab Kings at Dharamsala. He became only the second batter after KL Rahul to aggregate 600+ runs in a season. Barring 2024, Kohli has achieved the feat in 2013, 2016 and 2023. Rahul had crossed the 600-run mark in 2018 and then in three successive editions – 2020, 2021 and 2022. David Warner and Chris Gayle are next on the list making it to the 600-Club on three occasions each.

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Run-scoring propensity second only to 2016

Kohli was in devastating form in the T20 World Cup at home in 2016 and carried that form into the IPL. His run-scoring propensity and consistency was in a different league that season as he amassed a record 973 runs with four hundreds and seven fifties. The Kohli of 2024 is second only to the Kohli of 2016 in run-scoring. He has already equalled his aggregate from 2013 and is just five shy of matching the tally from last season. Kohli has registered five fifties and a hundred this season and his six 50+ scores are the most for any batter in the tournament.

A higher strike rate than 2016

Virat Kohli has silenced his critics and buried all the talk around his slow scoring rate with some scintillating performances this season. Post his ‘slowest’ 67-ball ton against the Royals, Kohli has upped the ante and produced four high impact performances with the bat with his 92 off just 47 deliveries against the Punjab Kings being his standout knock this season. Kohli has increased his scoring rate from 141.8 in the first six matches of RCB’s campaign this year to 167.6 in the next six.

Overall, his strike rate of 153.5 this season has pipped the scoring rate from his record-breaking season in 2016 where he scored 152 runs for every hundred deliveries. This is particularly significant given Kohli’s recent struggles with scoring rate in the IPL. Just for perspective, he had a strike rate of 121.3 in 2020, 119.5 in 2021 and 116 in 2022. Kohli pushed it up significantly in 2023 to a respectable 139.8 but has made a big statement by taking it up a few notches higher this season.

A bigger six-hitter in 2024

One of the main reasons for Kohli’s 150+ strike rate this season is his frequency of hitting boundaries. Kohli has smashed a boundary every 4.9 deliveries this season which is his best frequency of doing so ever in the IPL. He took 5.3 deliveries for every boundary in 2016 – his previous-best season on this count.

The biggest difference this season has been in his intent and ability to clear the ropes. Kohli has already hit 30 sixes in the tournament and his balls per six ratio of 13.8 is his best-ever for a season, bettering the 16.8 deliveries he took to hit clear the fence in 2016! Kohli always attached a price on his wicket and hitting the ball in the air was not his style and preferred way of scoring quickly. However, that seems to have changed this season with him deliberately going aerial to maximize the result.

Conquering the leg spinners

The most notable feature of Kohli’s batting this season has been the urgency he has shown against spin. Kohli has a scoring rate of 138.8 against the slower bowlers this season which is his highest against their ilk in seven seasons! His 261 runs against spinners are also his second-highest in a season after 2016.

Kohli had struggled to up the ante against spin in the last few seasons and his cautious and tentative approach was having an adverse effect on the team. Just for perspective, Kohli’s strike rate against spin hovered between 100 and 113 in the from 2020 to 2023.

Kohli smashed 61 runs off just 34 deliveries against spin at a strike rate of 179.4 against the Titans in Ahmedabad. He hammered Rashid Khan for 16 off 11 deliveries. Kohli has taken Noor Ahmad for 37 off 24 deliveries at a rate of 154.2 in their two meetings this season. He has even attacked Yuzvendra Chahal and scored 24 runs off 15 deliveries (strike rate of 150) against him in the tournament. More recently, he adopted the slog sweep – a shot seldom associated with Virat Kohli – in RCB’s clash with the Punjab Kings at Dharamsala.

A more detailed analysis reveals that Kohli has particularly been severe on the leg spinners this season – which signifies that he has taken more risks. Kohli has scored 84 runs off just 54 deliveries against leg spin in 2024 and his strike rate of 155.6 is his best performance against them since 2017. Again, just for perspective, Kohli had a strike rate of 167.1 against leg spinners in 2016.

The best strike rate in the middle-overs since 2016

Kohli came under heavy criticism for slowing down the tempo considerably in the middle overs (7-16) in the last few editions. It was almost a self-imposed restriction and match after match, season after season, Kohli would go into his shell post the powerplay. Kohli had a strike rate of 118.6 in 2019, 108.1 in 2020, 106.5 in 2021 and 115.2 in 2022 in the middle-over period. He addressed the issue last season and took his middle-over’s scoring rate to 134. That has further gone northwards and currently stands at 144.4 this season – second only to the 150.8 in 2016.

Not slow off the blocks anymore

Kohli has conquered another problem area of his batting this season. He has wasted no time and shown intent from the word go and has an average strike rate of 154.3 from the first 10 deliveries in the tournament. It is Kohli’s highest scoring rate in the first 10 deliveries in a season. Interestingly, he had a strike rate of just 121.5 from the first 10 deliveries in 2016!

A new avatar in the powerplay

Kohli has brought out his A-game in the powerplay this season smashing 294 runs off just 184 deliveries at a strike rate of 159.8 – it is, by far, his best performance in the first six overs in the IPL. His previous best came in 2018 when he had a strike rate of 139.6 in the powerplay.

Comparing it to 2016, Kohli had a scoring rate of just 120.9 in the first six overs that season. This is another example of how he has re-invented his batting changing it to the needs and demands of the times – bat has dominated ball like never before in 2024 and teams like SRH and KKR have revolutionized batting in the powerplay. Kohli has unleashed his attacking avatar and reminded the cricketing fraternity that he can also match the Abhishek Sharmas and Travis Heads of the world.

Kohli may not equal his run-scoring feats of 2016 this season. But his ability to come out of adversity, leave his comfort zone and conquer most of his demons of the past, make Kohli – the T20 batter of 2024 more dangerous than ever before.


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