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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019

India vs England: Virat Kohli is Keith Fletcher’s flat-track pick, but backs him to click in England

Virat Kohli’s poor showing during India’s 2014 tour of England doesn’t matter now as the Indian cricket team skipper is more experienced, feels former England captain Keith Fletcher.

cricket Updated: Jul 27, 2018 11:02 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, Chelmsford
India captain Virat Kohli averaged less than 14 in the last England tour in 2014.
India captain Virat Kohli averaged less than 14 in the last England tour in 2014. (Action Images via Reuters)

The Indian cricket team’s hopes of doing well in the Test series has risen with summer temperatures in England, and former skipper Keith Fletcher believes conditions will be key for the visitors to win their first series in 11 years.

Fletcher, who played his 59 Tests between 1968 and 1982, has a strong India connect, having toured twice in the 1970s as a player and then as captain in 1981, for a six-Test series which India won 1-0.

Watching India’s warm-up game against his county Essex, Fletcher shook his head pointing to the Essex County Cricket Ground pitch. It was still green, but the early life had evaporated in the blazing sun and Indian bowlers were focusing on discipline on Day 2.

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“India has got a good all-round attack. You’re going to be a handful because you got good seamers, good spinners, and lovely batters. But England will also make it tough for you, so it will be a great series,” he said in an interview on Thursday.

Fletcher was in no doubt about India’s challenge – tackling England’s top pace pair. “The most important thing is you must get enough runs. If you do, with the attack you got, you have a chance. You will be up against quality as far as Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad are concerned. They can get people out.”

It won’t be a test of character merely for Virat Kohli, who averaged less than 14 the last tour in 2014. Home skipper Joe Root has faced criticism over his captaincy – only 16 matches and five series old since taking from Alastair Cook after the 2016 Test series defeat in India.

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And Fletcher, in a roundabout way, acknowledged what the two batsmen faced when asked to compare Kohli, Root, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson and Steve Smith of Australia as batsmen.

“All are cracking players, but it does depend on what wickets they play on. If it was dead flat, it would be Kohli. If it was seaming about, Joe Root. And I think Williamson can play too. They are all potentially great players.

“Conditions are the key. If it moves, then Kohli, he has got to work it out.” Fletcher didn’t make too much of Kohli’s failures the last time. “But he was young then, now he is an experienced lad. We will see.”

“(Root’s captaincy) is a work in progress. He has got a bit to learn, but he would get better.”

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England pitch conditions can confound everyone this time with few willing to predict how Tests to be played at Edgbaston, Lord’s, Trent Bridge, Southampton and the Oval will go.

“We can still have those kind of wickets (lively). We can water the pitches, but look at this pitch. The only thing green is the square (not the pitch anymore). If we get a wicket like this, five days open to the sun, then it might do something and play into India’s hands.”

Provided India batsmen can tackle Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali.

First Published: Jul 27, 2018 08:50 IST

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