The Virat Kohli cover drive. What a shot, eh?

ESPNcricinfo's categories for logging shots played by batsmen have changed over the years, but counting "cover drive", "off side drive on front foot" and "off drive" as descriptions of roughly similar shots (while leaving "off side drive on back foot" out of this far-from-scientific exercise), Kohli has scored more runs with it than any other shot in his Test career: 1911, off 1719 balls, with 282 fours and three sixes in the mix.

He plays the shot brilliantly, and scores exceptionally quickly with it. He has a great eye, wonderful hands and wrists, and one of the longest front-foot strides in the game. This means he can play cover drives off a far wider range of lengths than most other batsmen. He can cover-drive balls that other batsmen might square-cut. More often, he'll cover-drive balls that other batsmen might leave.

And so, while scoring as many runs as he does with this shot (spectrum of shots, to put it more accurately), he also gets out playing it, quite a lot. He's been out to it 25 times, which is as many times as he's been out defending, except it's taken him 3045 balls to get out as often while defending.

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Kohli knows the risk-reward equation that comes with playing the shot this frequently, and he's weighed it up and resolved to keep playing it, against every bowler and in nearly all types of conditions. And his judgment of when to play it is right far more often than it's wrong; he wouldn't average 54.30 otherwise.

When he attempted the shot off Kyle Jamieson in India's first innings at Basin Reserve last week, while batting on 2, and nicked it to slip, it may have therefore been a less terrible shot than it seemed at first glance. Especially when you consider that Jamieson had pushed Kohli back with his previous delivery, a well-directed short ball that climbed towards the batsman's throat.

But the early dismissal came on the back of seven limited-overs innings, all on this tour, in which he'd made a solitary fifty, 51 in the first ODI in Hamilton.

It's unwise to make too much of a run of scores that straddles formats, especially one that includes multiple T20I games, but it wasn't just the scores.

The first innings in Wellington was Kohli's first innings since he'd played a strange little knock in the third and final ODI in Mount Maunganui, where he'd been beaten three times in his first five balls, hit his seventh ball for six - he usually never hits anything in the air that early - and slashed his 12th ball for a catch at third man. Kohli hadn't batted or fielded in India's three-day warm-up match in Hamilton, choosing instead to work on his game in the nets.

"As unreliable and mythical a creature as body language might be, there's been something just slightly off about it when Kohli's been at the crease in the last few weeks. Or it might just be cricket writers doing the cricket-writer thing and seeing a pattern where none exists"

In the second innings in Wellington, Kohli once again played his shots from the get-go, picking up a second-ball boundary with an uppish cover drive, edging his eighth ball between slip and gully while trying to work it into the leg side from outside off stump, playing another uppish drive - which fell a few yards short of mid-off - off his 15th ball, and showing a greater willingness to take on the short ball than any of his top-order colleagues. A top-edged pull off Trent Boult eventually got him out for 19 off 43 balls.

After the match, Kohli suggested that more of India's batsmen could have taken the short ball on, and tried to put New Zealand off their plan of using it as a defensive weapon. He said it would help India to try a more proactive approach in the second Test in Christchurch, and not let New Zealand keep playing the waiting game. At one point, he framed it as a question of team over individual glory.

"[If] six-seven people can think like that, for sure two-three people will come good."

Knowing Kohli, he's probably fully prepared to be one of the three or four batsmen who get out for a low score if the tactic pays off from a team perspective.

But a positive, look-to-score-off-every-opportunity approach is one thing, and the nature of Kohli's last few innings on this tour is another. There's been something hurried, maybe even harried, about his manner at the crease, an over-eagerness to feel ball on bat, maybe, and hit that one impeccable drive or pull or flick that brings him back to his best form. He hasn't appeared to be playing the game at his own pace, which could, perhaps, have something to do with frustration - conscious, subconscious or unconscious - over his recent run of scores. Something not dissimilar to Jasprit Bumrah's seeming overeagerness, in Wellington, to take a wicket or two and feel the old rhythm again, having missed so much cricket over recent months to recover from a stress fracture of the back.

During his post-match press conference in Wellington, Kohli was asked to assess his batting on this tour.

"I'm absolutely fine," he said. "I am batting really well. I feel that sometimes scores don't reflect the way you are batting and that's what can happen when you don't execute what you want to well. Look, when you play so much cricket and you play for so long, obviously you'll have three-four innings that don't go your way. If you try and make too much out of it, it'll keep piling on.

"I think it's about staying in a good space and I know the chat on the outside changes with one innings. But I don't think like that. If I thought like people on the outside, I would probably be on the outside right now. I think it's all about doing the basics right and putting the hard work in practice.

"You can't really walk in thinking that I have to do it every time. You want to do it. But if it doesn't come off, then you don't have to beat yourself up too much. You take pride in performing for the team and I've always done that and I'm looking forward to contributing in a win in the next Test.

"It doesn't matter what I do. It's never been about my performance on tour or about how many runs I score. It's all about if the team wins, even a 40 is good. If the team loses, then even a hundred is irrelevant for me and I'm going to stay in that mindset."

He'd say that, of course, and it may even be true. But as unreliable and mythical a creature as body language might be, there's been something just slightly off about it when Kohli's been at the crease in the last few weeks. Or it might just be cricket writers doing the cricket-writer thing and seeing a pattern where none exists. Whatever it is, at 1-0 down, India would love for the Christchurch Test to contain a cathartic Kohli innings.