Virat Kohli’s clean sessions are often an intense, well-calculated drill, a compressed version of his real-game batting. India’s selective nets in Bengaluru on Friday were in for an onslaught as Kohli carefully honed his skills against the short-cut bowling and left-arm spin that he will have to deny against New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final. Earth. The Kiwis are primed for the last four games against India at Mumbai on November 15 behind 10 points and a better run-rate than their closest rival Pakistan. The immediate goal before Kohli may be to dispose of the Netherlands, but with all due respect the Dutch are still not in New Zealand’s class.
One of the challenges Kohli will face at the Black Caps is Lockie Ferguson. The outspoken paceman is still on fire as he did in the 2019 World Cup, partly due to a right Achilles niggle.
But Ferguson showed the highlight against Sri Lanka at the Chinnaswamy Stadium tearing apart the Lankan middle and late order with a barrage of short pitched balls.
He even pinged Maheesh Theekshana on his hands, leaving the batsman writhing in pain for a few minutes.
Ferguson is sure to repeat the tactics against India too if the meeting takes place.
Kohli has one of the best draws in contemporary cricket and the body line rarely gets in the way but true to his character, the former Indian captain left nothing to chance.
Pacer Shardul Thakur and the side-arm specialists bowled a series of bouncers at Kohli and he had little trouble throwing some of them away, some shots traveling as far as the second row.
The 35-year-old also attempted a few ramp shots, which could come in handy against a bowler like Ferguson who can hit north of 150 kmph.
Kohli’s second Test point may come in the form of Mitchell Santner’s left-arm spin. It’s no secret that the Indian star doesn’t boast a perfect record against that type, often going into trouble.
In the past, left-armers like Keshav Maharaj, Shakib Al Hasan and Dunith Wellalage have succeeded against Kohli.
Santner was New Zealand’s best bowler here, consistently hitting the right length to keep the batsmen mostly quiet.
It has also shown in his numbers in the case – 16 wickets from nine games with a fine economy of 4.6 per start.
Kohli is likely to face Santner in the middle overs, averaging just 9.33 over 17 matches while being dismissed three times.
Even if one takes the recent numbers, Kohli’s struggle against left-arm spinners is quite evident. From January 2021, Kohli averages just over 13 against them and the strike rate drops to 66.
So, it was no surprise to see Kohli perfecting his craft against left-arm spin as he faced Ravindra Jadeja in the nets, who also managed to get a few foul shots from the Delhiite.
However, it was clear that Kohli has already gauged in his mind the areas of danger he might have to cross on the big day.
Ishan Kishan stays away
It was an optional session but all the Indian players except Ishan Kishan attended the nets.
In a news story, pacer Jasprit Bumrah did his arm with a bit of spin as head coach Rahul Dravid doubled up as a side-arm thrower.
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