Virat Kohli’s Batting Decoded Ahead Of T20 World Cup 2024: Is He Really Weak Against Spin?

It is that time of the year once again. As the ICC T20 World Cup squad announcement for India comes closer, the discussions around the strike rate and approach of star batter Virat Kohli in T20 cricket are once again at the centre of all possible discussions around the squad, its players and the overall balance of it. Virat is currently leading the IPL 2024 run charts, with 500 runs in 10 matches at an average of 71.42 and a strike rate of over 147, with a century and four half-centuries. His best score is 113*. He is also the highest run-scorer in the league’s history, with 7,763 runs at an average of 38.43 and a strike rate of 131.02. His best score is 113*. Virat has scored eight centuries and 54 fifties.

The superstar batter is also a different beast in ICC T20 World Cups, where he is the leading run-scorer of all-time, with 1,141 runs at an average of 81.50 and a strike rate of 131.30, scoring 13 half-centuries in 27 matches and 25 innings. He also secured the ‘Player of the Tournament’ honours in 2014 and 2016 for his performances. In the tournament, Virat has a history of bringing his absolute A game against Pakistan, during the run-chases and lastly during the knockout games, where he has always scored a half-century.

Despite all the numbers, Virat’s recent T20 form, strike rate and overall approach has produced mixed debates. While many opine that his slightly conservative, anchor-like style that involves calculated risks is irrelevant in modern-day T20s, many cricketers, experts, media and fans still side with the batter because of his tendency to perform under pressure, his ability to accelerate and anchor as per needs and his great statistics. The constant chatter around Virat does call for a look into his numbers.

Let us look into his IPL game this season and in the past, across all the phases and styles of bowling, starting with the middle overs, where the Virat is said to often slow down and take less risks, especially against spin.

Middle overs (7-16 overs): As per ESPNCricinfo, Virat’s middle-overs strike rate in IPL 2024 is 137.17, his highest since his peak year of 2016, which saw him score 973 runs. This year, he has made 214 runs in this phase in 156 balls and dismissed four times, bringing his average to 53.50. 14 of these deliveries have been sent for four while eight were dispatched into the skies for a six. He has played 40 dot balls in this phase this year. His middle-overs strike rate during the years was: 133.96 (2023), 115.21 (2022), 106.53 (2021), 108.10 (2020) and 118.60 (2019). At his peak in 2016, he scored at an SR of 150.76 in middle overs, scoring 490 runs in 325 balls, with 37 fours, 18 sixes and 68 dot balls. Virat was dismissed five times in this phase back in 2016, bringing his average to 98.00.

Against spin-bowling in middle overs this year, Virat has struck at a SR of 138.4. He has scored 144 runs in 104 balls, only dismissed once by spinners in this phase. He has smashed six fours and seven sixes against spin in this phase and played 24 dots. 56 of his runs have come through singles. This strike rate of 138.46 is actually his best in years, having struck at: 110.48 (2023), 105.55 (2022), 101.03 (2021), 105.17 (2020) and 111.53 (2019) over the years against spin in this phase. Even in 2016, his SR in middle-overs against spin was slightly low at 137.23. His all-time high SR against spin in overs 7-15 was back in 2015, scoring at 157.42, making 159 runs in 101 balls, with nine fours, 10 sixes and 28 dot balls. 45 runs came through singles and the rest through doubles and triples.

His pace game in middle overs has declined as compared to last year, when he was striking at 170.58, his all-time high against pace in this phase. This year, his SR against pace is 134.61 in middle overs, having scored 70 in 52 balls, with eight fours, a six, 16 dot balls and 22 runs coming through singles. Even back in 2016, Virat’s SR against pace in this phase was 169.34, scoring 232 runs in 137 balls, with 21 fours, nine sixes, 28 dots and 65 singles. The rest of the runs came through doubles and triples. Other than 2023 and 2016, his SR against pace in middle-overs has never touched 150.

Now, the focus shifts to two of Virat’s strengths, which is the ability to get his team to a blasting start during the power-plays and let loose his arms completely during death overs.

Power-play (1-6 overs):This year in the power-play, Virat has scored at a strike rate of 154.43. He has scored 244 runs in 158 balls, with 29 fours, 10 sixes and 58 dot balls. 54 runs have come through singles and the rest through doubles and triples. Even in the powerplay, Virat’s numbers have shown massive improvement over the years and are in-fact, at an all-time high. In the past five seasons before this, he struck at 136.81, 116.78, 130.27, 109.45 and 138.95.

During his peak year of 2016, his strike rate in power-play was 119.55. He scored 269 runs in 225 balls, with 29 fours and six sixes. He played 87 dots during this phase and took 91 runs through singles and the rest through doubles and triples.

Death overs (17-20 overs):This year, Virat has scored at a rather decent strike rate during the death overs, mostly because he never really got a chance to play much in this phase or he just lacked support at the other end. His SR at death this year is 168.00. He has faced 25 balls and scored 42 runs in this phase this year, with three fours and two sixes. He has played five dots in this phase and taken 12 runs through singles and the rest through doubles and triples.

Last year though, Virat’s death overs strike rate was 216.00, scoring 54 runs in 25 balls, with four boundaries and four sixes. He played five dots, got 10 runs via singles and rest through doubles and triples. During the last five seasons before this, Virat’s strike rate has been at death: 216.00, 115.78, 100.00, 205.88 and 266.66.

Virat’s strike rate at death been his strongest trait, staying above 200 for eight seasons, including numbers of 241.17 in 2016 and 266.66 in 2015.

*Type of bowling

Overall SR against pace:Virat’s overall strike rate against pace in IPL 2024 is 157.69. He has scored 287 runs in 182 runs, with 35 fours, 10 sixes, 61 dots, 65 singles and the rest of the runs through doubles and triples. In the previous five seasons: His SR against pace has been: 163 (his all-time high against pace), 120, 132.19, 135.16, 146.77. Other than in 2024 and 2023, his SR against pace touched 150 on three occasions in 2010, 2016 and 2018.

Overall SR against spin:His strike rate against spin this year has been: 135.66. He has scored 213 runs in 157 balls against spinners this year, with 11 fours, 10 sixes, 42 dots, 79 singles and rest of the runs through doubles and triples. In the past five seasons, Virat’s overall SR against spin has been: 113.46, 108.08, 100.00, 108.91 and 130.14. His strike rate against spin was at its best in the 2016 season, where he struck at 152.30 and 2015 season, where he scored his runs at 151.21 against spin bowling.

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