James Anderson vs Virat Kohli: The Battle Within The War
It is often said that one of the reasons team sports can be seen as inferior to individual sports is the personal rivalries that are formed within the latter. Think of tennis and Nadal versus Federer, or of Formula One and Vettel against Hamilton and of golf with Palmer battling against Nicklaus to name a few examples. When all of a sudden these individual battles take place within teams, they often feel more pointed and intriguing as a side show. Ronaldo versus Messi, Larry Bird versus Magic Johnson and in a sport like cricket, where the battle between bowler and batsman can often feel like a game between two people, James Anderson and Virat Kohli.
Since England’s memorable tour of India in late 2012, when swing star Anderson dismissed the King of Indian cricket Kohli regularly as the away side won for the first time in 28 years there, the two have engaged in an often fierce battle on, and more creatively at times, off the pitch.
Undoubtedly the best English fast bowler of his generation, and arguably the greatest England bowler since Sydney Barnes way back at the turn of the 20th century, James ‘Jimmy’ Anderson has improved like a fine wine over the past few years. His Test bowling average has dipped under 30 and is now close to the right side of 27, sitting less than 25 wickets away from overhauling the great Glenn McGrath’s world record of 563 Test wickets for a fast bowler.
On the other side the past few years of international cricket have belonged to one man, Virat Kohli. Since the start of 2016, Kohli has scored 600 more runs in all formats than anyone, interestingly in second place on that list sits Joe Root, his opposing number in the upcoming Test series. Kohli has scored eight more centuries than anyone else at an average of nearly 75. Put simply, Kohli has turned from a precocious one day batsman to an all-round superstar, reaching numbers that not only rival, but better his predecessor, the legendary Sachin Tendulkar.
The one blot, however, on Kohli’s ridiculous formbook, is his record in England, and in particular, against James Anderson. On India’s last tour here in 2014, he averaged less than 14 over five Tests, no small sample size, and Anderson dismissed him no less than four times out of ten dismissals. Kohli couldn’t seem to deal with the swinging red ball that doesn’t pose a threat in the shorter formats.
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But since that disastrous tour, Kohli has averaged over 64, dominating in every country since, especially at home, including against England in the return leg between the two countries in late 2016. A thumping 4-0 victory over England left India and Kohli sufficiently satisfied, as their captain scored two tons – including a double – as Anderson was unable to retain any sort of stranglehold over Kohli, who swatted him away with worrying ease. There was however a fight back in the verbal sense from the fast bowler, who suggested Kohli could only score runs on flat decks, and as far back as two years ago, Anderson picked out this upcoming series as an opportunity to back up his claims.
That’s one the main reasons which makes this five Test series, at the height of the summer, so fascinating and exciting. It is not only Kohli who has produced stupid numbers since the last tour of England too; since the English summer of 2014, Anderson has taken 160 wickets, averaging less than 22, the second lowest of anyone who has taken over 100 Test wickets in this period. So, both come into this series with great form as well as expectation. Anderson on this tour has already nibbled away at Kohli’s desperation and need to do well this tour, striking early in the potential war of words and ball against bat. Yet Kohli has always been relatively quiet on the matter, but knowing his feisty character, what odds would you get if he scores a century we see a mic-drop with his bat?
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