Virat Kohli is XI players in one; getting him is like bowling out India: Pakistan great Saqlain Mushtaq
“Yes, he’s (Virat Kohli) the No 1 player in the world. But if you put your plan, imagination, feeling, and passion into the ball, you are no less,” said Saqlain Mushtaq.
When it comes to feared batsmen in the world of cricket, the name of Virat Kohli always comes to mind. The Indian skipper strikes fear into the mind of the opposition players with his batting skills and his aggressive attitude on the field. It was clearly visible in the documentary featuring the Australia cricket team before the series against India, where the management and players were trying to figure out different strategies to keep Kohli quiet in the series. They even went as far as deciding not to engage with Kohli at all during the earlier Test matches.
It is for nothing that the opposition fears Kohli. He has managed to become a top player in all formats of the game and averages more than 50 in Tests, ODIs, and T20s. The fear of Kohli has been further highlighted by Pakistan great Saqlain Mushtaq.
While advising England spin duo of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid before India’s visit, Saqlain asked them to treat skipper Virat Kohli like the entire Indian team, saying the prolific batsman alone is like a complete eleven.
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Saqlain was associated with England as a spin consultant till World Cup last year. Under him both Moeen and Rashid have dismissed Virat Kohli six times each.
“Yeh ek nahin, yeh gyarah hai. I would just tell them Virat’s wicket is like bowling out the entire Indian team. He is like XI players in one, you have to see him like that,” the 43-year-old said in an Instagram Live with Nikhil Naz.
“As a bowler, you have to be clear in your mind. Yes, you have a world-class player who is at the top of his game and does not face any issue against any type of spinner, be it left-arm, offie, or a leggie.”
”But I would tell them the pressure is more on him not you, as the whole world is watching him. You have to be clear in your mind.”One of the best dismissals of Kohli has been the one affected by leg-spinner Rashid who cleaned up the Indian captain with a delivery that pitched around the leg, turned sharply, and clipped the off-stump during the Headingley ODI in 2018.
Saqlain had named it as “Virat-wala delivery” and would encourage Rashid to consistently practice that during the nets.
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“It was a wide ball and had a lot of drift and clipped the bail. I would tell him to bowl Virat-wala delivery so that he keeps producing that at the nets. It’s about putting your soul into the ball. Yes, he’s the No 1 player in the world. But if you put your plan, imagination, feeling, and passion into the ball, you are no less. As the No 1 batsman, he will have an ego. If you bowl a dot ball to him his ego will get hurt. And if you trap him and get him out, he will be really sad. It’s a mind game, you have to keep your standard high.”
Saqlain, who has been appointed as Pakistan cricket’s Head of International Player Development, said the English team did its homework well against Kohli.
“We would study all his batting phases -- how he starts, builds up and finishes the game -- and plan accordingly. I had a lovely time with these boys. Indians are the best against the spinners, so you always look forward to play against them,” Saqlain said.
“Against India, you have to be fully prepared and ready to play a long ball. Your blood will sweat and you have to have a strong mind to deal with them.”On how he developed the ace delivery, Saqlain recalled: “During our childhood days there was no ground available near my place so we would play on the terrace with table-tennis ball. We would tape it and would ball all kinds of variations and that’s how I developed doosra.”
“The key is to start doing that from an early age, maybe 13-14 years so you develop a strong grip and technique,” he concluded.