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Exclusive: Virat Kohli & Co must bat first to put pressure on England, says Sourav Ganguly

Speaking to Hindustan Times hours before the start of the fourth Test between India and England at Southampton, Sourav Ganguly spoke about not only India’s chances of making a remarkable comeback in the series after being 0-2 down after the second Test at Lord’s, but also threw light on the areas that this team can work on to become world beaters both at home and away.

cricket Updated: Aug 30, 2018 11:00 IST
Baidurjo Bhose
Baidurjo Bhose
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India vs England,Indian cricket team,Virat Kohli
India's captain Virat Kohli (C) applauds the crowd as his team break for tea during the fourth day of the third Test cricket match between England and India at Trent Bridge in Nottingham, central England on August 21, 2018. (AFP)

India skipper Virat Kohli has been compared by many to former captain Sourav Ganguly for wearing his heart on his sleeves. But Ganguly’s greatest gift was his man-management skills.

From managing stalwarts like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble on one hand to inspiring youngsters like Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan to perform to potential, Ganguly was a matured leader.

The former India skipper believes that Kohli too needs to do the same when it comes to senior players like Ajinkya Rahane.Speaking to Hindustan Times, hours before the start of the fourth Test between India and England at Southampton, Ganguly spoke about not only India’s chances of making a remarkable comeback in the series after being 0-2 down after the second Test at Lord’s, but also threw light on the areas that this team can work on to become world beaters both at home and away.

But an area of concern for the former India skipper is the inconsistent performance of a player of Ajinkya Rahane’s calibre. Ganguly makes no bones about the fact that Rahane is a vital cog in the Indian set-up not just in Tests, but also in the shorter format.

“I have no doubt that India needs Rahane in the middle-order in both Tests and ODIs. Being dropped after doing well in the shorter-format could have hurt his confidence. Rahane seems like someone who is a big confidence player and this is where Kohli’s role becomes important. He needs to put his arms around Rahane’s shoulder and give him that boost. In the past generation, most of the top players played both formats for India – Tests and ODIs. If after so many years, the team management still hasn’t been able to show him that confidence and faith, then that needs to be worked on immediately,” the former India captain opined.

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Talking of the series -- evenly poised at 2-1 in favour of England with two games to go -- Ganguly feels India have a good chance of making a comeback and clinching the five-game series 3-2. But for that, the team management needs to take some tough decisions and put pressure on the home side.

“Absolutely, they can win the series. Every Test has seen a result and it should be the same. This is a big opportunity for India to make a comeback and take the series. But for that, they have to put pressure on the English team. I felt that batting first in the third Test was a blessing in disguise as the Indians seemed keen to bat second in both the first two games. You have to bat first, put up runs on the board and put pressure on the English batsmen. They are not in the best form at the moment and the Indians should look to exploit that,” he pointed.

While the outcome of the series is awaited, one thing that is writ large on the wall is Kohli’s will to come out on top and not put his foot off the pedal. Even though Ganguly doesn’t wish to get into comparisons on whether Kohli reminds him of his younger days as captain, the former skipper loves the attitude that the India skipper displays on the field.

“I don’t wish to make comparisons or pass such statements on whether he reminds me of my younger days, but I must say he is just fantastic. One thing that is clear with him is his will to win. He just wants to win games for the country. He is such a positive character and I think that rubs off on the others as well. The vibe is positive and that is what counts,” he smiled.

ALSO READ: VVS Laxman picks Sourav Ganguly over MS Dhoni as India’s best Test XI skipper

While Kohli’s will to win has seen the team do well both at home and in away series, an area that bothers Ganguly is the talk about Cheteshwar Pujara and his scoring rate. Having captained arguably the best no.3 batsman in Test cricket – Rahul Dravid – Ganguly feels that this debate needs to be stopped at the earliest.

“What are we talking about? Test matches are ending in three-and-a-half and four days. What is this talk of the scoring rate? Pujara needs to be left alone. People must stop talking about his scoring rate. No, Dravid’s scoring rate or the number of balls he let go coming in at No.3 never bothered anybody and that is how it should be. Scoring runs is what should count, not the rate,” he reiterated.

Another reason for this team’s success is the bowling unit. While many have called it the best India have had, Ganguly begs to differ. Even though the former India captain feels that this side has a quality bowling attack, he also feels that comparison with the past attacks is unfair.

“When we dominated the series in 2007, we had a quality bowling attack. Not to forget when we won the series in Pakistan, or levelled the series in Australia. So, I don’t think it will be right to say that this is the best bowling attack. But yes, there is no doubt that this attack is very good,” he signed off.

First Published: Aug 30, 2018 10:00 IST