Hussey confident Starc will test Kohli

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Can Starc stop Kohli?

Former Australia international Michael Hussey feels fast bowler Mitchell Starc will be able to challenge Indian captain Virat Kohli in the upcoming Test series between the two sides.

Kohli has been in incredible form recently, having scored four double centuries in his last four Test series. Just last week, the 28-year-old scored 204 against Bangladesh, leading India to a big win.

Starc, on the other hand, was by far Australia’s best bowler on their previous tour to the sub-continent. The left-arm pacer took 24 wickets in three matches at an average of 15.16 in a series that the Aussies lost 3-0.

“I think Starc is a brilliant bowler for the sub-continental conditions. He bowls at a genuine pace, can swing the new ball and is an excellent exponent of reverse swing,” said Hussey.

“I am sure he will challenge Kohli throughout the series. It will, however, take a collective effort to stop Kohli, who has been phenomenal of late.”

Kohli and Starc should know each other well as they play for the same franchise – Royal Challengers Bangalore – in the Indian Premier League.

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Is it time for Rahul to go back to basics?

Anubhav Roda 15/02/2017
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Time for Rahul to change his game again?

As the age-old adage has it –“honhar balwaan ke hot chikne paat” (meaning a star of the future shows early signs of promise); KL Rahul lived up to it in the truest sense.

As his school coach would tell, Rahul was the only proper batsman in the side and was given the responsibility of batting at both ends, taking a single off the final ball of an over.

On some days, he would do the job handsomely and his team would sail through; and on certain days he couldn’t, his team landed in trouble. But with the former having a much higher ratio, his coach knew and was vocal of the youngster’s talent and potential to be a star.

His talent prompted him to head to Karnataka State Cricket Association’s Academy trials at Mangaluru at a tender age. But with Rahul below the permitted age of 12 at that time, he couldn’t get through despite enormous talent.

The rules couldn’t be altered for his talent but what could was to work a way around them. This saw Rahul attend the nets without having admission at the centre on recommendation of former Indian cricketer Brijesh Patel.

Fate was doing justice to the young wicketkeeper-batsman’s talent. Rahul scored two double hundreds in the Under-13 zonals at Bengaluru which caught his namesake Rahul Dravid’s eye while on a fitness drill there. Dravid, the youngster’s idol walked up to the talented lad and gave him a few words of advice.

In his rookie year as a first-class cricketer, Rahul was taken through a litmus test at Lahli (Haryana) – a pitch known to be a seamer’s paradise and an ideal test for any batsman’s prowess and technical abilities.

Rahul, as expected, scored an impressive 98. A middle-order batsman back then, he was prompted to bat high-up, thanks to his solid technique and it wasn’t long before India were to get a solid opener.

Rahul got his India cap in the Boxing Day Test against Australia at Melbourne in 2014. Batting lower down the order, the youngster could manage only 3 and 1. But built with a strong mettle, Rahul bounced back in the next Test at Sydney and batting at the top, he gave evidence of his technique and ability as he scored his maiden Test ton against a good Aussie bowling line-up.

Rahul then continued to get chances despite not getting another big score on the board. He then cemented his place at the top with Shikhar Dhawan undergoing indifferent form and soon got his second Test ton against Sri Lanka before getting one in 2016 in the Caribbean.

A shy looking, short-haired, technically sound batsman was seen as expressive as ever in his funky, trendy hairstyle – and with the ability to play all the exuberant shots one could imagine.

Rahul, after failing for three seasons in the IPL, recognised its importance and worked on improving his T20 game. But given he was playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore – a side that has always boasted top batting talent – Rahul was forced to bat down the order, not allowing him much time in the middle.

Set to be left out of the team, Rahul got his chance when Mandeep Singh was injured during the warm-up and the Karnataka lad was given a place in the XI. Making the most of it, Rahul smashed a half-century, and followed it up with three more. A stellar performer now, Rahul had cemented his place.

The stand-out factor was the way he was scoring his runs. A guy, who had become known for leaving deliveries outside the off-stump, was now seen hitting them ferociously over cover or point. The demands of the T20 format and the IPL demanded that – and Rahul gave in.

The suggestion that a solid Test player is proficient enough to play any format seemed glaringly true. But seeing how Rahul was hitting the ball and the mix of unconventional shots to go with the regular ones was hinting at something else.

Rahul was soon a part of the ODI setup as well and stroked his way to a century in his maiden ODI, thereby, becoming the first Indian to such a feat.

Rahul then followed it up with his maiden T20I 100 in August 2016. It wasn’t just a regular 100 but the fastest by an Indian and joint-second fastest in the world. Rahul was a different player now.

Then came the Tests against New Zealand and Rahul could only manage a single outing in the whites against the Kiwis because of injury.

A total of 70 in two innings, in a match where India completely dominated, wasn’t too comforting. Rahul’s mad rush at the crease seemed to have crept in and it seemed like he might lose his Test magic.

RAHUL'S TEST STATS

  • Matches: 13
  • Runs: 807
  • Average: 38.42
  • Centuries: 4

India then hosted England, where Rahul played a splendid knock of 199, but his rush of blood with one run left to knock off for his century led to his dismissal.

The evidence was pointing towards the doubt that had crept in previously. Apart from this magnificent score, the Bengaluru batter could garner only 34 runs in three more innings. Maybe, a fall was on the cards.

Rahul was extremely mediocre in the following ODI series against Eoin Morgan’s men and got out playing false shots in all three innings. None of the wickets were forced. A big heave, chop ons; this is how one of India’s most technically competent batsmen fell.

Then came the one-off Test against Bangladesh and there was hope of Rahul getting some runs and some confidence back. But as it panned out, it was another big disappointment.

On a flat track, Rahul couldn’t prevent his stumps being disturbed by Taskin Ahmed in the first innings while in the second innings, he played at a ball wide outside off-stump – something he would have let go a couple of years ago.

Looking at the stats and the errors that have crept into Rahul’s batting, especially in the longer formats, there is more than a hint that the batsman moved away from his mainstream forte to pursue short-term, dynamic gains in T20 cricket.

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Kohli credits teammates for his successful record as captain

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Kohli at the post-match press conference.

Virat Kohli played down his influence as India Test captain after their victory over Bangladesh.

Monday’s win at Hyderabad means Kohli’s men have now gone 19 Tests without defeat – an Indian record – and the skipper feels the credit should go to the players.

“Honestly, it is the players that make you the captain that you become,” said Kohli.

“To be very honest, anyone knows how to set fields in the ground, it’s just that you have to make sure that you take up the responsibility of keeping the energy of the team up.”

Kohli is often seen diving around and showing added energy in the field, and the 28-year-old said that when he does something like that, the other players react by showing similar levels of enthusiasm.

“I look to push myself, throw myself around in the field so that other guys know that they also have to push for a wicket,” added Kohli.

“The bowlers know what they need to do but the fielders within the ring need to support the bowlers. I need to do that first, for the guys to show that energy.

“I have been able to maintain that and that has been a takeaway from the games that I have been captain so far. Lot of times, you know that there is only so much that you can do as a captain.”

Having won six consecutive Test series, India will now play Australia in a four-match series which begins on February 23 at Pune.

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