Kohli more than ready for fun and games with Australia
Rivalry is reignited
India skipper Virat Kohli said competitiveness and “mind games” can be good for cricket as his team prepares to face Australia in an ODI series starting today.
While Australia captain Steve Smith has batted for peace and urged the five-match series to be played in “good spirit”, Kohli hinted that a bit of aggression can be useful to get the best out of players.
“All those things are to get that aspect of mind games which I think creates an excitement for the fans watching as well,” Kohli told reporters on the eve of the limitedovers series opener in Chennai.
“Also the players involved in the series... that becomes more exciting and players are more pumped up to win games and outdo each other,” he added.
“I feel that intense competition should be there for the game to have that excitement and keep this game alive. I think it is very important to have that competitiveness in every series that you play.”
The hosts are on top form after recently beating Sri Lanka 9-0 in Tests, ODIs and a Twenty20, but second-ranked Australia pose a different challenge.
Kohli was furious after a Test in Bangalore in March this year, when Smith looked up to his dressing room from the field – where replays could be seen by team-mates – while deciding whether to challenge an lbw dismissal. Smith later apologised for his self-admitted “brain fade” moment but Kohli slammed the Aussies at the time.
After landing in India, the combative Australian skipper said he was anxious to halt the acrimony that marked the series, which his team lost 2-1. Kohli stressed it was important to prepare properly for a series irrespective of opponents.
“Your preparation should matter more than who you are playing against,” said Kohli. “So, we like to prepare the same way and we like to play with the same kind of intensity regardless of who we are playing against,” he added.
Spin is king
Kohli declared an all-out spin war against Australia, saying the quality of his bowlers gives him confidence for the one-day series.
Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal add variety to the Indian attack that saw pacemen Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav return for the five-match series.
While Australia captain Smith is already focusing on Kuldeep in the first game, Kohli hinted at unleashing two wrist spinners in Chennai.
Kuldeep made an instant impression against Australia, taking four wickets in his Test debut in India’s series-clinching win in Dharamsala this year. The 22-year-old Kuldeep is likely to pair up with Chahal at the MA Chidambaram Stadium with left-arm spinner Axar Patel nursing a sprained ankle.
“It is a great advantage to have two wrist spinners in your team, especially when both are so different to each other and both can pick up wickets in the middle overs,” Kohli said.
“They are in a zone where they don’t mind getting hit as long as they pick up 3-4 wickets which I think is a very good space to be in.”.
Australia called in local left-arm wrist spinner KK Jiyas to help prepare for Kuldeep’s guile during practice in Chennai. “They’re different (left-arm wrist spinners) so it’s good to be able to get someone who bowls a bit of that,” Smith said.
“He (Kuldeep) is a good young talent and can be difficult to pick at times. He’s someone who you have to watch really closely. Hopefully we can put him under pressure.”
“Intense competition should be there to keep this game alive” – Kohli
Out for now: Axar sprained his ankle.