Virat Kohli’s elite levels of obliviousness and delusion

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Virat Kohli expressing joy (via Sky Sports)

There were three phases to Virat Kohli’s hundred. There was the bit where he kept being beaten by the bowlers; there was the bit where the ball wasn’t doing quite so much but he was still shaken up; and there was the bit where everything went back to normal and he played like he was going to make a hundred all along.

Far and away the most interesting of the three was the bit where he was shaken up. This is because it didn’t particularly seem to exist.

Have you ever had a near miss on the road?

Like a scary near miss. Someone pulling out on you or moving into your lane on the motorway without looking. Maybe some absolute knobsack in a 4×4 towing a trailer went to overtake you while you were flying downhill on your bike but then instead of actually passing, he just sat there alongside you, trapping you within an 18 inch wide strip of tarmac as you both approached a bend at speed.

Something like that happens and you know about it. Your body carries a memory of it and if anything remotely similar occurs within a certain span of time, your vital systems take a shortcut directly to full-on panic.

This is quite often what happens to batsmen. It’s not so much the one ball with their name on it that gets them as the accumulation of all the balls with very similar names on them. Misses, edges, wrong shots – even just failing to score – eventually batsmen get nervy and then they do something stupid. Maybe not even stupid. Maybe just something less than excellent because that can quite often be enough to get you out in a Test match.

Improving his odds

Doing something wrong (or not quite so well) because of a bunch of stuff that happened previously is one of three main ways in which batsmen get out. (The two that bookend it are unplayable deliveries and getting too cocky.)

Kohli seems to have all but negated the effects of near-misses though; the reverberations just don’t seem to touch him. This is pretty weird because getting freaked out by things that almost result in your (cricket) death is a very natural human response. The elite level of obliviousness being displayed by Kohli is therefore almost literally inhuman.

Forget about it

People talk about shrugging off those moments when you almost lose your wicket, but while many batsmen appear to do so, few move from a close call to complete conviction that it’s going to be their day quite like Kohli.

Such a move requires a great fat tree trunk of confidence; the kind that’s fed by thousands of little tendrilly roots, so that if you cut a few off, it barely even matters. It perhaps also demands [looks shiftily from left to right, lowers voice to a whisper] a certain amount of delusion.

Delusion is very much a strength in sport. If things fall your way, it can be rebranded as confidence after the fact, whereas lack of confidence will pretty much always see you fall before luck can even become a factor. Certainty is good, no matter where you get it from.

This seems to us to be the area where Kohli has an advantage over most people. He’s not invincible. He has weaknesses and periods where he’s vulnerable. It’s just that immediately after he’s threatened, he denies that it ever happened with such absolute certainty that he even convinces himself.


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    1. Maybe, but as we said at the time, England will match India collapse for collapse.

      1. That’s the only way this series can be competitive. It’ll turn into a whitewash at the first instance the England team puts up a 400+ total.

        Probably not an exclusive trait of the Indian team. Most test tours these days seem to go that way. But, it’s still horrible to watch when only one team is really playing.

  1. If Kohli can’t bring himself to get that extra run for a 150 then it’s obvious he hasn’t got what it takes. Poor show.

  2. Well if you lead a life devoid of gluten, wheat, cold drinks and desserts, I suspect you can develop resilience that will let you view mundane things like almost getting out to Ben Stokes with a sort of Patton-like nonchalance.

    1. Very true. Does anyone know self denial quite like the rich man in a hot country who only drinks lukewarm water?

  3. Wasn’t Sehwag a bit like that? The moment a ball was ‘complete’, it was irrelevant to him. He would happily play and miss at the same kind of ball outside off stump three times and then smash it for 4 on the fourth attempt.

  4. It’s going to be amusing when England fail to win the world cup and putting up with this terrible excuse for a Test team is exposed as totally pointless.

      1. Between Kohli, an emerging youngster in Curran, a ball that moves all day, a roaring 3rd session Edgbaston, and a match that oscillates for all 3 days, this is what we’ve got!

      2. Looks like a nailed-on 4 or 5 wicket victory for India to me. Wonder how much Warks will lose by this test being over by lunch on Saturday?

  5. So India lost the SA series because we couldn’t chase 2 200-odd scores. The minute Curran took England above 150, I was antsy. We don’t do nailed on 5 wicket wins outside India. I wish and hope this match and series changes that.

    1. And our captain is a dolt when it comes to selection.. Pujara (or anybody) ahead of Dhawan any day of the week when abroad, 2nd spinner on this wicket 9/10. Makes it difficult for himself.

      1. I fail to understand how the rest of our batting has regressed outside Asia under Virat. Vijay, Pujara and even Dhawan to some extent were decent players in SA, Aus, NZ and England between 2013 and 2015, not sure what happened.

        I wonder if the batsmen are just intimidated with Virat in the dressing room.

  6. So much for the cricket.

    Still going to the Dodgers game, Edwardian? I see the Mariners are just as terrible as England are now. This regression to the mean has been depressing.

  7. Also I’ll probably regret saying this, but as an Indian fan I never thought I’d see a team that’s more shit at slips catching than ours.

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