Virat Kohli and the cover drive

Dealing with the channel.

(Still one-handed, sorry for typos etc)

Virat Kohli plays a lot of cover drives. He's not doing it through ego or because he hates you being happy. He plays this shot because he's good at it and because it helps him.

By good at it, I mean it's his second-most productive shot. Daylight is third.

And despite playing 345 attempted cover drives in the last five years, he's managed only to be dismissed from it eight times while averaging over 60 and scoring at nearly 1.5 runs per ball.

His off drive and square drive numbers are also good. This is a productive shot for him.

And today, he played it again. Many wanted him to stop, but this is one of his shots against pace, and it has tactical advantages for him.

Kohli plays the drives on the offside to punish bowlers in the channel, so they can't nag away at him. Every player has a way of dealing with that ball; your entire success at this level comes from it.

If you look at the fab four, they all hit in different places. Williamson opens the face and runs it fine. Root pushes around point to find his ones. Smith moves across the crease and turns it away. And Kohli goes to cover. There's no ideal method, it's just about getting off strike.

The cover drive is a staple of all the guys. Few right-handers don't play them and it's the second-highest run scorer for all of them. But Root plays the cover drive only 13% of the time and doesn't have a regular off drive. Neither does Smith.

Only Williamson has all three of the offside drives in his wheelhouse, which makes sense as he and Kohli are classic players. Root plays off the back foot and Smith is weird as hell.

But even though Williamson is of a similar style, Kohli still plays a higher percentage of offside drives. And he plays it a different way. Williamson are soft, Kohli's are hard.

Kohli is defending and looking for runs; Williamson is looking to dead bat. Whether Kohli drives or defends, his way of talking on cricket most delivered ball is through positive intent.

This isn't wrong. It might make the bowler change their line or length. It's likely to change the field. And it's playing to his strength the same way that the other three are.

The idea that a Kohli would stop cover driving in this series, a shot that hasn't yet dismissed him this summer - is interesting. He's been out off driving, when Anderson bowled a fantastic delivery. And I'd argue he's been out a couple of times pushing into the gap on the off side.

But mostly he's been out defending. Trying to cover the balls around the channels, going at them hard, trying to get bat on ball, and often just getting edges to really good test deliveries. England have bowled incredibly well on helpful surfaces. They've also spent a lot of time with wobble balls and moving the ball back in, meaning players feel they have to play at balls that we might expect them to leave.

I am losing my voice from saying this, but batting in Tests is harder than it has been in 100 years. And much more with seamers. Since the start of 2018, the average versus seam is 26.5, for the 100 years before it was 31. These guys hires are dismissed by skilled bowlers on spicy pitches assisted by analysts with some help from wobble balls.

Batting is hard right now.

The removing the cover drive is more about Sachin Tendulkar's one innings. But all players are different. Tendulkar's cover drive was an attacking run-scoring shot, but it wasn't part of his channel play. He moved across to flick or drove dead straight more. He could take out the cover drive because it wasn't part of his defence. And even then, he did it once, on a flat SCG Test against an Australian attack without its two best bowlers.

Kohli is facing Jimmy Anderson on green pitches in England. Different bowlers, batter and pitches.

But Virat had changed his game during this summer. Between Tests and it's not about the cover drives but the channel balls themselves. On the left is him at Headingley.

Look at the stumps. He's clearly moved over. It's even more evident when he takes his first step. The off stump has disappeared you can see leg.

And when he finishes the shot you can see his head which is also more in line with the ball.

That's a fair change between Tests. And it's hard to do as you need to commit and be comfortable doing it in a day or two so it feels natural for the next Test.

As for the cover drive, none were involved in him being dismissed or dropped. He clearly chose the right lengths and played the shot well. Which looking at his average playing the shot, he seems to do a lot.

The only reason I can find why he shouldn't play the cover drive is to stop people moaning.

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