Ex-India coach meticulously decodes how Virat Kohli can triumph over Pakistan's fierce pace trio
Virat Kohli will be up against the fierce trio of Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, and Haris Rauf on Saturday.
The last time India took on Pakistan in the Asia Cup group stage, the side's star batter Virat Kohli was making a comeback after a self-imposed break from the game. A rough patch with the bat, that saw him barely crossing the 300-run mark in the Indian Premier League, and followed by inconsistent performances on the tour of England, saw Kohli taking time out for himself and freshen up for the marquee continental tournament. And the 34-year-old Indian batter made a strong return indeed, not only ending as the second-highest scorer in the edition (276 runs in five matches), but also smashing his maiden T20I century during the match against Afghanistan.
Since then, Kohli has made a solid return to form in all three formats and as India prepare for their opening match of the Asia Cup 2023 – against arch-rivals Pakistan – all eyes will be on the star batter. This year, the Asia Cup is played in ODI format due to the fifty-over World Cup scheduled in October-November, and the stakes will be high as India host the marquee global tournament. The Indian team will be hoping on its star batter to deliver consistent performances, and the preparations for the World Cup begin on Saturday when India take on Babar Azam's men in Kandy.
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Kohli's record against Pakistan has been brilliant in both white-ball formats. His scintillating knock against the side in the group game of the T20 World Cup last year is a part of the cricketing lore; the batter steered India's successful 160-run chase despite the side being reduced to 31/4 at one stage. As Kohli prepares to take on Pakistan's star-studded bowling attack of Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, and Haris Rauf, former India coach Sanjay Bangar – who works closely with the 34-year-old batter at Royal Challengers Bangalore – provided insights on how Kohli can tackle the three.
Bangar stated that Kohli doesn't chase the ball and allow it to come to him, which is a significant change from his batting in the previous year, and that should help him against the left-armer Shaheen.
“He has got into that habit of scoring big runs again. Generally, he was sort of lunging towards the ball, making a big stride forward, and because of that, he was getting out a lot in the slip cordon or also was getting out trapped in front of the wicket. So what is he doing now? He is setting up really nice and early, staying still, allowing the ball to come to him. That is one aspect which is going to help him big time, especially against Shaheen Shah Afridi because he gets the ball to swing in late,” Bangar told Star Sports' Game Plan.
“And if we are watching the ball, letting it come to you, you can actually play it down the ground or play it to mid-on or mid-wicket region; that is where his strength is. Against Naseem Shah, because he is not lunging forward, his judgement outside off stump is going to be perfect. And against Haris Rauf, who is sort of back of the length all the time, he can rock onto the back foot or play those pull shots which he did really well in the last Asia Cup.”
Kohli against spin
Bangar insisted that Kohli would trust on his backfoot against Shadab Khan but should have a positive approach against Mohammad Nawaz.
“Against the spinners, he has his own methods of scoring runs. Against Shadab Khan, he will look to rock onto the back foot, play between point and cover region, a lot on the back foot. Against Mohammad Nawaz, he will look to use his feet because he is not afraid of doing that. And if the ball is pitched slightly short, then he can rock onto the back foot and explore that area on either side of the deep mid-wicket region,” said Bangar.
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