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IND vs ENG Kohli on ‘dear friend’ Ishant
Heaps praise on the India quick’s complete “commitment and attention to Test cricket” over the shorter formats
Virat Kohli kicked his sleeping room-mate, Ishant Sharma, out of the bed to inform him he had been selected for India 15 or so years ago. Things haven’t changed that much over time. To Ishant, the Ahmedabad Test starting Wednesday is just another Test; to Kolhi, the fast bowler’s 100th is as good as the 150th for a batsman in modern cricket. On the eve of the Test, Kohli paid rich tribute to his “dear friend” and his attack’s spearhead.
“I have known Ishant for many years now,” Kohli said. “He started playing state cricket with me from his first season onwards. We have been room-mates for many years in state cricket, in Ranji Trophy cricket. When he got selected for India, he was fast asleep in the afternoon, and I had to kick him off the bed and say you have been selected. And he wouldn’t believe me. That’s how far we go back.
“I couldn’t be happier for him. Paying 100 Test matches as a fast bowler is no mean feat. Especially in our conditions where things get so difficult but he persevered, he kept working hard. That’s been his essence from day one. Very hard-working guy, very honest about the game, about his ability, about what he brings to the table. Very self-assured.”
Looking at Ishant’s amazing performances in the last four-five years, it is easy to forget he spent a majority of his career as the workhorse of an incomplete attack with some ordinary figures. Ishant’s turnaround began when he learnt under Jason Gillespie at Sussex how to get fuller without sacrificing his pace. It also coincided with India managing a more complete attack, which meant Ishant was not so easy to see off. His best years have also coincided with Kohli’s captaincy.
“I was most excited to work with him and really bring the best out of him as an attacking fast bowler,” Kohli said. “Something that clicked immediately [when I took up captaincy]. He knows my mindset. He knows me inside out. There is a big trust factor. I know him inside out. I know he will respond to advice, he knows I am going to listen to his plans as well. I think it has worked really well for both of us. Not just for him as a fast bowler, but for me as a captain to have that kind of experience and the kind of consistency he brings along with the attacking lines and lengths he bowls.
“I have just been very very happy to see him enjoy his bowling over the last four-five years and really become that stalwart of Indian fast bowling group. Couldn’t be happier for him. Really, really excited I am going to be present on the field when he plays his 100th game. To see the smile on his face and just run in and bowl will be great to watch for a dear friend of mine.”
Kohli was in awe of Ishant’s conditioning, motivation and commitment. “To maintain his body so well, to play 100 Tests, this longevity is rare to see among the fast bowlers today,” Kohli said. “Sometimes you lose motivation too. He has the skill, mind you, to play the shorter formats. If he wanted he could have improved his four-over and 10-over cricket and could easily be a regular in IPL and present a case for himself in one-day cricket. But he dedicated all his commitment and attention to Test cricket, prioritised it. To play 100 Tests for a fast bowler is as good as 150 Tests for a batsman. I hope he plays for many more years and inspires the next group of fast bowlers too.”
Perhaps Ishant’s conditioning is too good for Kohli too, at least when you look at his full head of hair. “If you captain and wear helmets for a long time you will also lose your hair,” Kohli said. “If he bats for a long time he will also lose his hair. Thankfully it doesn’t come down to that, and when it does his role is different.”
Ind vs Eng – 3rd Test – Ahmedabad – Virat Kohli on 36 all out
India’s captain says pink ball Tests upend traditional batting and bowling tactics, and the team will have to adjust to that
Bowl to contain at the start and cash in once the ball starts to misbehave under lights. Bat freely during the day, and take a fresh guard and bat as if opening the innings when the lights come on. That’s what the experience of playing the day-night Test in Kolkata has taught Virat Kohli. He expects spinners and fast bowlers to both be in play even though the conditions underfoot are expected to assist spin bowling.
“The pink ball does tend to swing a lot more than the normal red ball that we play with,” Kohli said on the eve of the Ahmedabad Test. “We experienced that in the one match that we played in 2019 against Bangladesh. It is much more challenging to play the new pink ball regardless of the pitch you are playing on. Especially in the evening, say, as a batting team you are starting your innings in the evening under lights, then that one-and-a-half hours is very challenging. Yes, spin will come in for sure, but I don’t think the new ball and the fast bowlers can be ignored. The pink ball does bring them into the game till the ball is nice and shiny. Something we are very well aware of, and we are preparing accordingly.”
Kohli said the first session of the day was the easiest to bat in. “Last time we experienced that the first session is probably the nicest to bat,” Kohli said. “When the sun is out and the ball doesn’t do much. But when it starts to get dark, especially during that twilight period, it gets very tricky. The light changes. It is difficult to sight the ball. Then under lights it is like playing the first session in the morning in a normal Test match. The ball does tend to swing a lot. I think it is a reversal of roles and something you need to adjust to quite quickly as a batsman. Even though you might be quite set in the afternoon, you have to really take guard again and start from the scratch in the evening. And understand that you probably have to be more disciplined than you were in the day.
“Similarly with the bowlers. The plan in the afternoon was to bowl a nice and consistent line and length, and then in the evening when the situation allowed us to, we attacked a lot more. I think the same kind of template will be useful in this game as well.”
The day-night Test, though, has bigger implications. If India lose it, or the next, they can’t make it to the World Test Championship final. A day previously, Ishant Sharma spoke of how much that final meant to him, that as far as he, a one-format specialist, was concerned, it was the World Cup for him, and that it was imperative that he help India make the final. Kohli doesn’t want to think that far ahead.
“You can’t play for those kind of reasons [the qualification permutations],” Kohli said. “We are not looking to win one and draw one. We are looking to win both. For us these are two games of cricket, and the only thing we are focused on. What it does afterwards is a conversation for later. That is a reality not present right now. In the present moment we are preparing for tomorrow, ready for the grind for five days, wanting to win a Test match for India and then move on to the next one.
“One day at a time is something we have followed for years now. There is no point running far ahead into the future where you have no idea what’s going to happen. We are going to focus on what we can do as individuals in the present moment and let other people think of scenarios and what if and what if not.”
Nor is Kohli carrying any scars from India’s previous day-night Test, where they played excellent cricket for two days before being blown away in one session in which they were bowled out for 36. Similarly, England were bowled out for 58 in their previous day-night outing. Kohli said all that won’t matter in Ahmedabad.
“We are going to focus on what we can do as individuals in the present moment and let other people think of scenarios and what if and what if not.”
Virat Kohli on the WTC final prospects
“Both are bizarre experiences for two quality sides,” Kohli said. “If you ask England the same question that do you think you could be bowled out for 50 again, their answer will be no. Because you understand that on particular day, things are meant to happen a certain way and whatever you try to do, it is out of your control and nothing seems to go right. Exactly what happened to us in Adelaide.
“Barring that 45 minutes of bad cricket, we dominated that Test as well. We are confident of how we play the pink ball. Even in Australia, where the pitches were assisting their seamers, they were under the pump throughout the game. We understand that quite well. From the outside, things are not as detailed or as explained about what happens in the change room. But you understand exactly what went wrong that day and you brush it aside, which the team did beautifully in the Melbourne Test. These are experiences. Not a mental scar. Not a hindrance. Something you learn from and move ahead.”
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
Chris Gayle could return to West Indies’ T20 squad
Gayle has interrupted a stint with Quetta Gladiators to return to the Caribbean
Chris Gayle is expected to return to West Indies’ T20I squad for the first time in two years, when the side takes on the visiting Sri Lankans at the start of March. West Indies will announce a squad later this week but Gayle has interrupted a stint with the Quetta Gladiators in the PSL to return to the Caribbean, having been given indications that he will feature in the three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka.
As with the other members, Gayle will undergo a fitness assessment before the final squad is named. If he does play, it will be the first time he has represented West Indies in any format since August 2019, when he played an ODI against India; it will be exactly two years to the day since he last played a T20 international, against England in March 2019.
Gayle is scheduled to return to Pakistan for the remainder of the PSL after the last T20I, on March 7 – an arrangement that had been agreed upon after the draft but before the season began. In fact, the PSL had announced just before the season that Faf du Plessis would be a partial replacement for Gayle just before the season began, though they did not specify why such cover was needed.
But this recall, under the captaincy of Kieron Pollard, marks a significant milestone in Gayle’s career, as well as for West Indies, coming as it does in a year in which they will be preparing to defend their T20 world title. That tournament is due to take place in India in October-November, West Indies having won the last edition of the tournament also in India, in 2016.
At 41, Gayle’s future – international and otherwise – has been the subject of on-off discussion since the 2019 World Cup. Prior to the event, he had said the World Cup would be his last ODI cricket, though he reversed the decision during the tournament itself. He then turned out for the ODIs against India after the tournament, blasted a 41-ball 72 before walking off – to handshakes from opponents and applause from fans – as if it was his last game for West Indies.
He took a brief break from all cricket at the end of that year but upon his return in January 2020 at the Bangladesh Premier League, said he was still open for a return for West Indies – also joking that he might continue playing till he was 45. If he does play at the T20 World Cup, he will be 42.
Though the announcement of du Plessis as cover hinted at a return, the actual reasons for Gayle flying back were revealed, inadvertently, in a PCB press release after his 68 (off 40 balls) against Lahore Qalandars failed to prevent a nine-wicket defeat. Gayle has batted at one down for Quetta and scored 39 off 24 balls in the first game, another loss to Karachi Kings. Chatting to Gayle on his experience of returning to Pakistan after 14 years, the release said that Gayle “will leave shortly to feature in the West Indies’ T20I against Sri Lanka back home.”
This was Gayle’s first cricket in Pakistan since touring with West Indies in 2006-07 and he was, he said, feeling “blessed” to be playing at all during a pandemic.
“Playing during this particular time is a blessing. Hopefully, things can get better in the future.
“When you look at what’s happening in the world there are no fans in the stadiums and people have to watch [cricket] on television. It is something people and players look back and say we have to appreciate times when we actually had good things and not take them for granted.
“Things are tough with the world in pause. We must not take life for granted when things can open. We’re going to try to live the best life and live it to the fullest, spend more time with family and friends and reach out to the people a lot more.”
Gayle hoped cricket will resume in full soon.
“I am sure players are still hungry for it. “It is our livelihood, it is our job, our earning and that is what we know.”
Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo
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