IND v ENG: The end of Kohli–Anderson duels?

Time to celebrate the ageless master of swing, now just five wickets from the 700 mark—before his era, like all good things, ends...

Virat Kohli and James Anderson (photo courtesy @Cricjohn/X)
Virat Kohli and James Anderson (photo courtesy @Cricjohn/X)
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Gautam Bhattacharyya

It’s time for the India–England Test rivalry to resume in Rajkot on Thursday, 14 February, after a rather long break—but there is certainly a lingering feeling of emptiness among fans.

The series is rather interestingly poised at 1-1, but the chance to see a last dance between Virat Kohli and the ageless James Anderson is now gone, with the former being unavailable for the remaining three Tests.

The Kohli–Anderson duel has been one of the most valuable match-ups in contemporary cricket — with the Sultan of Swing, now 41, on a record sixth tour of India.

Just ponder this: It was Anderson who was a vital cog in the wheel more than a decade back, when England won their last Test series in India under Alastair Cook. Back then, it was Anderson who had the measure of the great Sachin Tendulkar.

Now, only five wickets shy from being the first pace bowler to reach the landmark of 700 Test wickets, there is every possibility that the defining moment for Anderson may come in Rajkot, Ranchi or Dharamsala.

The master bowler looked in fine fettle, with good rhythm and control even on a flat deck at Visakhapatnam, finishing with figures of 25-4-47-3 and 10-1-29-2. The way he induced an edge from his bunny, Shubman Gill, in the first innings for a caught behind and the way he cleaned up Rohit Sharma in the second showed how dangerous he can be even in these conditions.

Truth be told, the presence of Anderson and the pullout of Kohli alone certainly hands a degree of psychological advantage to the visitors.

As the suspense over Kohli continued till some three days back, former England captain Nasser Hussain said in an interview that the only thing missing in an otherwise intense series so far was the Kohli–Anderson duel. History shows that the former Indian captain has been dismissed by Anderson seven times in Tests — but, much to Kohli’s credit, he managed to restore some balance in their battle after being swept off his feet in the 2014 away series in England.

In what was Kohli’s first Test series in England, Anderson dished out his fabled pearlers and removed the Indian batter four times, conceding a mere 16 runs off the 50 deliveries. Four years later, Kohli settled the score, remaining not out across Anderson's 270 deliveries and scoring 114 runs off him. The latter, a fierce competitor with a penchant for getting under the skin of his rivals a la the Aussies, had termed their battle in 2021 "my favourite contest with Virat". In four Tests, he had dismissed Kohli twice, even as the Indian scored 72 runs off 162 balls from Anderson.

The bigger question, however, is: have we seen the last of these enduring duels?

It’s only after a gap of nearly two years that the two nations are expected to confront each other in a Test series again. The England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB), much to their credit, have handled Anderson with kid gloves over the last five years or so to prolong his career. But then—like all good things—his era has to end sooner than later too.

It seems that we haven’t celebrated Anderson enough during this Test series, waiting for the dramatic showdown with Kohli. Now, let's make amends and let him steal some of the spotlight perhaps, and not just as a foil to our Indian favourite—for as long as Anderson's show may last!

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