It’s a delight to watch a batter play the cover drive. And it becomes even better when Virat Kohli plays it.
The sweet sound of the bat when he middles the ball is a pure melody to the ears. But sometimes the melody turns into a loud appeal by the opposition when Virat edges the ball into the hands of the wicketkeeper or slip fielder when playing the drive.
Moreover, this sight becomes more common when he tries to play the far outside the off deliveries and mistimes them.
So, why does Virat Kohli keep getting out while playing his signature shot — the cover drive?
Virat Kohli’s Cover Drive: Strength or Weakness?
Sometimes your strength might as well turn out to be your weakness. And it seems a similar thing happens when Virat tries to play drive on the off-side.
When Virat middles the ball well, no one can stop him from playing the cover drive or off drive. But picking the wrong ball to play the shot can cost him and his team dearly.
Just see what happened in the recent 2023 World Test Championship Final against Australia at The Oval in England.
India was 3 down on 179 runs while chasing a mammoth target of 444 on the fifth day. Virat and Ajinkya Rahane were building a good partnership. But Kohli let loose and lost his wicket while playing the cover drive.
On the third ball of the 47th over, Scott Boland bowled a full-length, wide delivery outside the off stump. In simple terms, the ball was pitched between the 7th and 8th stump lines! Virat could have simply left the ball, but he couldn’t resist and edged it towards the slip cordon. Steve Smith made no mistake and caught the ball.
And this is not a one-off incident. Just look back at the 2014 and 2021 England Test series or the 2021-22 South Africa series. He got out to similar deliveries. And fans like you and me, start thinking about why Virat keeps making the same mistakes again and again!
Well, you must’ve noticed one thing though, when India toured England in 2018, Virat did improve on his weakness against outside the off deliveries by changing his stance and batting technique. And he ended up scoring 593 runs at an average of 59.3.
But it seemed like he didn’t take a cue from his own performance while playing in 2021 and during the 2023 WTC final.
And since 2020, Virat has had a poor form with the bat in Tests. Maybe that’s on his mind when he comes to bat. His batting technique is almost the same; it’s just that he is overcommitting to feeling the ball on the bat and getting runs on the board.
So, should Virat stop playing cover drive?
Well, the answer is simple, NO.
While playing a Test match in England, the conditions are favourable for bowlers to swing the ball throughout the day. And when it comes to South African conditions, the pitch offers inconsistent bounce.
During the 2021 South Africa tour, when Virat got out playing wide-off deliveries, some experts even suggested taking a leaf out of Sachin’s 2003-04 Sydney Test knock. Sachin Tendulkar didn’t play a single cover drive in his 241 runs not out innings against Australia.
But it’s not like Sachin stopped playing cover drive after that; it was a one-off instance.
Virat can surely do it in one inning, but he can’t stop playing the drive for the rest of his career. He has scored loads of runs by playing the cover drive.
Instead, Virat needs to pick the right deliveries to play the cover drive. Or he should play such balls a little late and drive them towards the square of the wicket, which he is also good at. And playing late in English conditions is essential for staying longer on the crease.
Moreover, he should leave the balls that are away from his body and control his eagerness to feel the ball on his bat early on.
And the fans will rejoice if he times it well!