IPL 2024: Virat Kohli & RCB – The Tragedy of a One Man Army in a Team Sport

IPL 2024: Virat Kohli is going to win the Orange Cap. Again. RCB will not be winning the trophy. Again.

5 min read
Hindi Female

It was not supposed to end like this.

The effervescent, perennially animated figure, who once darted from one end of the ground to another, pushing his vocal cords to the limit in every celebratory exertion, now cut a desolate, dispirited figure.

That, he was wearing the Orange Cap, an honour bestowed for scoring the most runs, was now reduced to a trifling triviality. His team, Royal Challengers Bengaluru, were eliminated from the 2024 Indian Premier League (IPL) title race, following a four-wicket defeat to Rajasthan Royals in the final.

At the seventeenth time of asking, as has been the case in the previous sixteen occasions, Virat Kohli could not lay his hands on the trophy. The perpetual bridesmaid – always an enchanting highlight in the opulent wedding, but never walking down the aisle.

Instead, he walked to the pitch and quietly dislodged the bails, as he did at the same venue after 19 November’s World Cup final defeat, in a melancholic act that borrows its explanation from a Linkin Park song – ‘I’ve tried so hard, and got so far, but in the end, it doesn’t even matter.’

It was not supposed to end like this, or was it? For, this is how it has always ended for Kohli in the IPL, with RCB, despite their unswerving fans and their unceasing support, has never won the trophy.


The Remoulding and Remodelling of Virat Kohli’s Style

It is only right that the individuals’ contributions are scrutinised after a team’s failure, but the case of RCB and Kohli is an exception.

He scored 741 runs in 15 matches, at an average of 61.75 and a strike rate of 154.70, with one century and five half-centuries to his name. No other batter has reached even the 600-run mark this season. Moreover, Kohli is the only batter with 500+ runs to boast an average north of 60.

Time and again, questions have been raised, from both fans and experts, about his strike rate. He scored 639 runs in IPL 2023, but at a strike rate of 139.82. Recognising the need for a change, Kohli remodelled a style which earned him enormous success in international cricket, to suit the team’s requirements. IPL 2024 saw him unveiling the attacking shots which were hidden in his arsenal for years, including the slog-sweep against spinners. 

That shot helped him score a 44-ball 70 against Gujarat Titans, after which Kohli stated:

I didn't practice the slog-sweep at all. But I know I can hit it because I've hit it a lot in the past. I just felt like I needed to take a bit more risk and that shot was something that I used to hit regularly back in the day.
Virat Kohli

In a harsh twist of irony, the slog-sweep triggered Kohli’s downfall in the Eliminator, but it served as a testament to his willingness to improve. 


Breaking the Records, and Also the Narratives

Among the Travis Heads and Sunil Narines – known predominantly for their power-hitting prowess in the powerplay overs – Kohli, usually considered in the more elegant variety, held his own in terms of strike rate.

Highest strike rates in powerplay in IPL 2024 (batters with 300+ runs):

  • Travis Head – 216.29

  • Abhishek Sharma – 206.92

  • Virat Kohli – 161.47

  • Faf du Plessis – 159.28

Till last season, Kohli opted to deal with the spinners predominantly in singles. Now that such an approach is considered anachronistic, he also moulded his approach in accordance with the desideratum.

How Virat Kohli’s numbers against spin improved in IPL 2024:

  • Strike rate vs spin from IPL 2008 to IPL 2023 – 117.7

  • Strike rate vs spin in IPL 2024 – 137.1

  • Balls per boundary vs spin from IPL 2008 to IPL 2023 – 9.1

  • Balls per boundary vs spin in IPL 2024 – 7.2


Speaking about Kohli’s evolution as a batter, RCB coach Andy Flower commented:

It's amazing that he's still evolving his game even though he's got an incredible record already, an incredible base to what he's done. He's even developing his game further which I think is a great testament to him.
Andy Flower

On Wednesday (22 May), Kohli also became the first-ever cricketer to score 8000 runs in IPL. As in the orange cap leaderboard, the 35-year-old has a cushion here as well, with no batter having scored 7000 runs yet.

Leading run-scorers in IPL history:

  • Virat Kohli – 8004

  • Shikhar Dhawan – 6769

  • Rohit Sharma – 6628

  • David Warner – 6565

  • Suresh Raina – 5528

IPL 2024: Virat Kohli is going to win the Orange Cap. Again. RCB will not be winning the trophy. Again.

Where Collective Rules the Roost, Individual Contributions Are Insignificant

But, his 741 runs were good enough for only a playoffs qualification. His 639 runs in IPL 2023 were good enough for only the sixth place. His 973 runs in IPL 2016 – a staggering number unlikely to be bettered anytime soon – were good enough for only the runners-up medal. 

On most occasions where he needed to step up, he did.  On those rare occasions he could not, barely anyone could, like the last match. Despite scoring only 33 runs, he ended up being the team’s second-highest run-scorer on the night.

Sport has shown, on countless occasions, why individual achievements are insignificant where the collective rules the roost. In 1958, Just Fontaine scored the most goals ever in a single edition of the FIFA World Cup, but that did not translate into a trophy for France. 64 years later, history repeated itself as Kylian Mbappe found out how winning the Golden Boot does not equate to winning the World Cup. Sachin Tendulkar scored 673 runs in the 2003 ICC World Cup – a record bettered only last year, when Virat Kohli scored 765 runs in the 2023 World Cup. India did not lift the trophy on either occasion.

What’s Next – Change of Fortune of the Team, or Change of Team?

Yet, whilst changing nationality is not a possibility, Kohli could opt to change his IPL team – a suggestion floated by Kevin Pietersen:

I have said it before and I will say it again – the greats of the game in other sports have left teams to go and seek glory somewhere else. Virat Kohli has tried and tried so hard. He has won the Orange Cap yet again and done so much yet again, but the franchise (RCB) failed again. But Virat Kohli deserves a trophy. He deserves to play in a team that could help him to get that trophy.
Kevin Pietersen, on Star Sports

Will we see Kohli in another franchise, or can he lift the trophy by staying in RCB? Will this tragedy of a one-man army in a team sport have further instalments?

Answers will be known later. For now, cue the Linkin Park song again.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  IPL   Virat Kohli    Indian Premier League 

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