Saturday, January 20, 2018

Virat Kohli needs to keep his emotions under check, feels Michael Jeh

Virat Kohli reacts after taking a catch to dismiss SA's Quinton de Kock for a duck on the first day of the second Test at Centurion. Pic: AP/PTI
Virat Kohli reacts after taking a catch to dismiss SA's Quinton de Kock for a duck on the first day of the second Test at Centurion.  Pic: AP/PTI

Trailing two-nil in South Africa is not the disaster it needs to be. With long-term vision, the series can still be a glass half-full for India if they can learn and execute the lessons when they tour Australia at the end of the year.

In South Africa, India have proved that their fast bowlers can go toe-to-toe with the home team, even on quick pitches. They need to adopt a similarly aggressive approach in Australia. Unless it is swinging at night in Adelaide, they need to pack their team full of genuine quicks and fight fire with fire. Toiling away with medium pacers who bowl line and length won't work on these pitches. England were utterly naive to think otherwise.

Also read - IND vs SA: Angry Virat Kohli lashes out at media: How many times has South Africa won in India?

There's another lesson for India's coaches. For goodness sake, teach the lower order to bat properly. Not just swinging from the rafters, get-them-before-they-get-you sort of philosophy. If the tail can show some courage and learn to play the short ball, that will allow someone like Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane or Hardik Pandya to bat sensibly and convert a decent score into one of those 'daddy' hundreds that Steve Smith specialises in.

Testing times ahead
Let's see what Kohli does for the rest of this series in South Africa in terms of his body language, demeanour and leadership. His batting is not in doubt — his class is there for all to see and he has conquered Australia in Australia twice before. As a leader, he can be talismanic and inspirational, flashing eyes and flashing blade carrying his team along with him on a sea of passion, fuelled by manic Indian crowd support, almost neutralising Australia's home advantage. But King Kohli is both a strength and a weakness.

Mind games
The Aussies, media included, will bait him mercilessly, knowing that he refuses to back down, trying to get him to lose his cool. They will have a plan to get him so emotional that he plays the man and not the ball. They will try to push him to the brink where his combative nature will result in a suspension or emasculation. The fanatic Indian supporters will do him no favours because they will not understand the mind games being played; they will instead exhort their hero to become so passionate that he loses sight of the big prize.

Some will point to Kohli's fantastic record in Australia and argue that he thrives when the heat gets turned up. And it may well work for Kohli himself but what ends up happening is that the rest of his team get dragged into the verbals and they may not be equipped to fight fire with fire in the same way. The Aussies are experts at it. They use the incessant sledging to take their game to the next level without losing their heads. It's bred into them from junior cricket. And for some reason, they are protected by officialdom because umpires and match referees invariably allow them more latitude than some other teams.

Cut that attitude
So if Kohli doesn't learn anything from his spoilt brat antics in South Africa, which frankly, should not be tolerated from an international captain, he will put his less skilled teammates under immense pressure because they will have to deal with the furnace that he stokes.

South Africa with gentlemen like Hashim Amla and AB De Villiers are a far cry from David Warner, Mitchell Starc and an increasingly abrasive Smith. Dare I say it? If Kohli cannot control his emotions, will India be brave enough to change captains and just allow him to bat and bat and bat? It might be the last thing Australia expects! The Indians need to spend a few days in Kruger National Park, recharging their batteries. Be the lion, taking prey head on, being prepared to lose a few battles to win the big prize. Learn not from the hyena, trotting along patiently, waiting for a weakness and then exhausting their prey. On these pitches, games can be won and lost in a single session. Be brave. Be bold. Be the lion. But only roar after the kill has been made!

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