The 20-over format is supposed to be one that forces batsmen to play low-percentage cricket and makes it extremely difficult for them to achieve any sort of consistency in run-scoring. Virat Kohli, though, has turned that theory on its head in recent times.
In his last 11 innings in T20Is, Kohli has scored 592 runs at 84.57 and a strike rate of 145, with eight 50-plus scores. His 11 innings read thus: 54, 57*, 23, 72*, 77, 66, 43, 1, 90*, 59*, 50. The only time he didn't pass 20 was against South Africa in Cuttack, when he was run out for 1. His 199 runs between dismissals against Australia is the second highest in T20Is, next only to Martin Guptill's 216 runs between dismissals in 2012.
Kohli's consistency in this format isn't an accident. He has devised a method to play relatively risk-free cricket without compromising on the ability to score runs quickly. In the series in Australia, his control factor - the percentage of deliveries which he middled (or left alone) - was as high as 90.3, which was quite unusual for the 20-over format; in contrast, Rohit Sharma's control factor was 74%, Shikhar Dhawan's 77.5, Aaron Finch's 75, and Shane Watson's 82.6. Kohli's control factor, coupled with his strike rate of 160 and aggregate of 199 in three innings, are fine indicators of how utterly dominant he was in the series. It is no surprise that his average in T20Is is 50.62, easily the best among batsmen who have scored at least 500 runs in this format; the next best is Finch's 41.61 - almost 18% lower than Kohli's - while several others crowd the space in the mid-30s.
|Faf du Plessis||26||825||39.28||134.8||1||6|
Batting at No. 3 allows him a better opportunity to settle in than those who bat in the middle order, but Kohli also has the skills to bat at different stages of an innings and mould his game so that he isn't a liability at any stage of a T20I innings.
His dot-ball percentage in the first ten balls of his innings is only 42.8. Most other batsmen in the top three have a higher percentage: it's 49 for Hashim Amla, 50 for Rohit, Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis, 52 for Mahela Jayawardene, 55 for David Warner and 64 for Chris Gayle. Among batsmen who play regularly in the top three, only Kane Williamson has a lower dot-ball percentage (39.4). Kohli's strike rate is 124 during this period, and he hits a four every 6.3 balls; for Williamson, the corresponding numbers are 130, and 5.8.
As the graphic above shows, the stats for Kohli at different stages of an innings are also excellent. In the Powerplay overs he played 39% dots, but it reduces to 24% in the middle overs, and to 18.5% in the last five overs. Overall, his dot-ball percentage is an incredibly low 28.2, the least among all batsmen who have faced at least 500 balls in T20Is.
One of the standout aspects of Kohli's batting in this format - and something he has also alluded to in interviews - is his ability to play regular cricket shots, keep his shape and balance while batting aggressively, and find gaps in the field for twos and fours. In the three matches in Australia, Kohli took almost as many twos (24) as he played dot balls (25), out of the 124 deliveries he faced in the series. He also found the boundary 18 times, which works out to an average of 6.88 balls per four. Over his entire career, he has averaged 7.18 balls per four, which is 11th among the 54 batsmen who have faced at least 500 deliveries in T20Is.
At the same time, Kohli doesn't prefer hitting sixes in this format. He has struck only 27 in 890 balls, an average of one every 33 deliveries. Among the 25 batsmen who have 500-plus deliveries and are striking at 125 or more, only two - Williamson and Jayawardene - have a lower rate of hitting sixes. Williamson is the lowest by far. He has struck only 10 of them in 661 balls, despite which he has a strike rate of 128. On the other hand, Yuvraj Singh hits a six every 10.64 balls, which is the best among these 25 batsmen. Among Indian batsmen, Kohli's six-hitting rate is considerably lower than that of Rohit (21.7) and Suresh Raina (20.8), but his strike rate is slightly better than them both.
|Shakib Al Hasan||897||715||125.45||22||32.50|
|AB de Villiers||1167||927||125.88||32||28.97|
And then there is Kohli's skill against different types of bowling. In Tests he has had his share of problems against seam and swing, but in this format he has been unstoppable against both pace and spin. He scores faster against pace and medium pace - his strike rate against them is 144.3 compared to 125.3 against spin - but he has a better average against spin - 92, compared to 47.18 against seam. However, he clearly had no problems against pace or spin in Australia, and given the ease and assurance with which he has been scoring runs in this format, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to claim he is the best batsman going around in T20Is.
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S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter