Ponting backs Kohli to overcome 'flat spot'

Former Australia skipper says India will need their skipper to fire if they are to defend their Champions Trophy title

Ricky Ponting says star batsman Virat Kohli is "well and truly good enough" to get through his current form slump and says the skipper will need to be in top form if India are to defend their Champions Trophy title next month.

Kohli has been unable to match the jaw-dropping standards he set in 2016 when he was the world's standout batsman in all forms of cricket; last year, the right-hander posted three Test double centuries (and added another in February), averaged 92 in one-day international cricket (including three hundreds) and averaged almost 90 across more than 30 T20 matches both internationally and in the Indian Premier League, including four tons and 14 half-centuries.

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But since he scored 204 against Bangladesh in February, Kohli has passed fifty just three times in 15 innings and has seen his Royal Challengers Bangalore slump in the IPL, winning just two of 13 matches after making the final last year.

Kohli's taxing IPL campaign has come on the back of a shoulder injury and a turbulent Test series against Australia, where he struggled with the bat and was at the centre of several flashpoints on and off the field.

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Ponting says the incredibly high batting standards the 28-year-old set last year, as well as the immense pressure of captaining the Indian team, has led to an understandable slide in recent months.

"It's hard to maintain the levels that he's maintained over the past 12 or 18 months across all three forms of the game," Ponting told

"At some stage it's going to catch up and you'll get a little bit mentally fatigued and a little bit off.

"He's had a rest coming into this tournament with injury, but if you're not bringing confidence and form into T20 cricket and into the IPL ... it can be a hard game to find your feet in.

"The other thing maybe to think about with Virat is the last few months of his life, he's probably been under more pressure than at any other time in his career.

"That Test series between Australia and India was probably one of the most hyped, one of the most spoken about, one of the most written about and the spotlight on the players and Kohli in particular in that series was probably stronger than ever before.

"The pressure of being the Indian captain is going to take a toll at some stage and it takes a pretty special character to do that for a long period of time."

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Aside from RCB's final IPL match on Sunday, Kohli's next challenge will be to captain India at the Champions Trophy in the UK, the first time he's led his country in a major tournament.

He will return to the British Isles for the first time since his horror 2014 Test series there when England's quicks, led by Stuart Broad and James Anderson, restricted him to an average of just 13.40 in five matches.

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Ponting doesn't believe Kohli's Test struggles in English conditions will count for much in the Champions Trophy, but says he will need to find form if India are to record back-to-back titles.

"The white ball will do a little bit for the first few overs, but that's generally all you see in those conditions," Ponting said of batting in the UK, where Kohli averaged 58 against the white ball in India's triumphant 2013 campaign.

"It's certainly not (the same as) what Broad and Anderson can do with the red ball in those conditions.

"It's just a good challenge for him of where he's at in his career. He's in a little bit of a flat spot but everyone goes through that, and he's well and truly good enough to find his way through the other side.

"It'll be interesting to see, with his team struggling in the IPL, what that brings out of him for the last part of this (IPL) tournament and if he can carry anything over from this into the Champions Trophy.

"Because (India) are going to need him to. They're a very good one-day outfit, but they're going to need their best players playing well if they're going to win the Champions Trophy."

India's title defence will begin against fierce rivals Pakistan on June 4 in Birmingham before matches against Group B rivals South Africa and Sri Lanka.

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