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Stats Analysis

The anatomy of Virat Kohli's century drought

Virat Kohli's recent record of converting starts has suffered in comparison to his own lofty standards

Shiva Jayaraman
Virat Kohli celebrates his 20th Test ton, India v Bangladesh, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 2nd day, November 23, 2019

Virat Kohli's last international hundred came against Bangladesh in the Kolkata Test of November 2019  •  BCCI

Virat Kohli has gone 71 innings in international cricket without scoring a hundred since hitting 136 in Kolkata against Bangladesh in November 2019. While he has often got starts, he hasn't been able to convert them into big scores. Kohli has passed fifty 22 times since that innings in Kolkata but hasn't managed to hit his 71st international century yet.
One can hardly complain about Kohli's T20I numbers - he has scored 846 runs at a strike rate of 145.11 and an average of 56.40. It can be argued that he has been denied a hundred in that format only owing to its brevity (he was unbeaten of 73, 77 and 80 in the series against England in Ahmedabad early last year). His ODI form has also been excellent: he has ten fifties in his last 19 innings, four of them in successive matches. No other batter going through such a productive run would be subject to so much scrutiny.
However, Kohli has been dismissed in each of his 49 innings in Tests and ODIs since his last hundred, so he probably hasn't run out of time in those innings unlike in T20Is. It's been a rather long drought for Kohli considering he bats in the top four in these formats. For someone who had set a lofty standard of converting every alternate fifty to a century in Tests and ODIs (he hasn't made a T20I hundred yet), this lean patch sticks out like a sore thumb.
The longest streak of successive innings for any batter in men's Tests and ODIs when he was dismissed before scoring a hundred is Kieran Powell's 94 innings. Including Powell, there have been 22 other instances when batters have been dismissed before scoring a hundred in 49 or more consecutive innings in Tests and ODIs like Kohli. However, in none of these instances have these batters matched Kohli's average of 32.57. The closest anyone has come to Kohli's average among these 22 other batters is Alec Stewart, who was dismissed in 49 successive innings without getting a hundred and averaged 27.49 in these innings.
It's not the worst of century droughts cricket has seen, but then Kohli has been unlike any other batter before him when it came to converting starts. Consider this - over seven different stretches of 49 innings in Tests and ODIs from August 2017 to January 2019, Kohli had made 17 hundreds. This was out of the 26 or 27 times he had crossed 50 in those 49-innings blocks. Kohli has now gone 71 innings without scoring an international century including in T20Is. Compare this to his best streak of 71 innings in international cricket - which he enjoyed over different separate periods - when he scored 19 hundreds. Don Bradman made 28 hundreds in 71 Test innings split by World War II. Sachin Tendulkar also made 19 hundreds in 71 innings in Tests and ODIs from March 1998 to November 1999. These are the only batters who have been as prolific as Kohli, or better. That's the standard Kohli fans have been used to.

Shiva Jayaraman is a senior stats analyst at ESPNcricinfo @shiva_cricinfo