Virat Kohli raced away to 29 in 19 balls in the powerplay against Punjab Kings today (April 20) before slowing down against spin. He eventually fell for a 47-ball 59, managing only 32 off the last 28 balls he faced. Sarah Waris looks at the extent of his struggles after the first six overs.

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Though Kohli strikes at 142 in the ongoing IPL – his best since 2016 – his scoring rate has been under the scanner in the middle overs, particularly against spin, a trend that has more to do with skills than intent.

Kohli has been dismissed by spin four times in five innings this year. This includes the Punjab match, where Harpreet Brar sent him back with a ball around the leg-stump line that Kohli was unable to play away. It was his eighth dismissal against spin since the 2022 IPL.

On Thursday, Punjab Kings opened the bowling with Brar. While talking to Star Sports, Punjab bowling coach Charles Langeveldt elaborated that they backed Brar “to take a wicket.” The ploy to attack Kohli with spin upfront was not lost on anyone.

In the first six overs, Kohli has a strike rate of 143, which rises to 158 against pace. He has scored 120 runs against the quicks upfront – the most by any player this season – averaging 120. His opening partner Faf du Plessis also has exceptional powerplay numbers against pace – he strikes at 176 – which has allowed the team to get off to fliers.

RCB have made 326 powerplay runs at a strike rate of 151, but their woes begin once the slower bowlers enter the attack, with Kohli’s issues getting amplified further. During the middle overs, Kohli’s strike rate falls to 138. He has batted in the middle overs four times, facing close to four overs a game, leaving Bangalore to play catch up more often than not.

Take the Lucknow Super Giants, for example. Kohli cleared the ropes consistently and was particularly harsh on Mark Wood, against whom he strikes at 252 in all T20s. But the spinners changed the momentum after the powerplay. Kohli, who had raced away to 42 in 25 balls, made 19 in the next 19 after the spin trio of Krunal Pandya, Ravi Bishnoi and Amit Mishra were introduced. RCB went on to lose a close game, and Kohli’s innings was slammed as a “match-losing” one.

Against Punjab, his batting followed a similar template. He scored six in six balls against Brar in the powerplay, but took on Arshdeep Singh and Nathan Ellis before slowing down when Rahul Chahar and Liam Livingstone entered the attack. He struck at 71 against spin in the middle overs, and though he had a strike rate of 180 against the quicks in this period, his aggregate was well below what is expected. His frustration upon reaching his half-century in 40 balls was evidence of how aware he is of his weaknesses.

Since 2020, Kohli has struck at 102 against spin in the IPL. As a result, his strike rate in the middle overs reads 115 – well below par for a man of his stature. Unfortunately, it is a flaw that cannot be overlooked anymore.