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14 January, 2018

Daggers still drawn at Kohli

It's practice what you preach time for Virat Kohli now after India's top order batsmen fail to earn back their pride

By Francis Adams

Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. Pic courtesy: India Today
Celebrated badminton coach Pullela Gopichand is known to take away P V Sindhu's smartphone days before she was preparing for crucial international matches so that it did not cause any distraction in
her quest for victory.

Team India coach Ravi Shastri may not get to hide Virat Kohli's mobile phone, although he should until this second Test match gets over at the SuperSport Park, in Centurion. .

Such has been the criticism by former players on Kohli resting Bhuvaneshwar Kumar for this second Test that should you face such sharp remarks from critics at your workplace, you'd be prompted to put in your paper (read resignation).

A little after India's playing 11 was announced on Saturday, January 13, 2018 for the second Test,
Pullela Gopichand and PV Sindhu.
Pic courtesy: The Indian Express.
former South African pace bowler Allan Donald was among the first to express shock and disappointment.

Sunil Gavaskar, VVS Laxman and Virendra Shewag were other prominent former players making their disagreement with Kohli public.

"@BhuviOfficial left are kidding me??" Donald tweeted from his @AllanDonald33 handle.

In India, Virendra Sehwag, also a Delhiite as Kohli, unleashed his verbal attack just the way he would to bowlers worldwide with his bat.

"Watching Virat Kohli exclude Shikhar Dhawan for just one Test failure, and Bhuvneshwar for no reason at all, Kohli should drop himself in the third Test at Johannesburg, if he fails to perform in Centurion," Sehwag told India TV.

Gavaskar, who like Sehwag felt Dhawan deserved another chance, said this about Bhuvi's exclusion: "I also don’t understand why Ishant came in for Bhuvneshwar when he [Bhuvi] had taken three wickets on the opening day at Cape Town. Ishant could have replaced Shami or Bumrah but leaving him out, I don’t understand."

Laxman, known for bailing out Team India in Tests with his batting, said: "I am surprised not to find Bhuvi in the playing XI today. In the first Test, he took the most number of wickets [6 wickets] showing skill in using the new ball & batted quite well showing patience nd resilience. Am I missing something here ??"

Had Virat Kohli read these comments with the help of his smartphone, he'd have have felt his head and feet heavy to take the field the next day.

By the end of the first day, Ravichandran Ashwin and Hardik Pandya had helped restore pride for India -- Ashwin with his three wickets and Pandya with a brilliant run out of Hashim Amla.

The daggers are still drawn on Kohli. India managed to get South Africa all out for 335 in the first innings. Restricting them to below 300 would have been ideal and a psychological plus.

Virat Kohli with the ICC U-19 World Cup trophy, 10 years ago
with Ravindra Jadeja to his right. 
What lies ahead for Kohli and the top oder?

The only way India's top order batsmen could have earned back their good reputation was by accumulating a total close to 650 plus so that they don't have to bat again. And then hope their bowlers bundle out the opposition below 300 runs.

Unfortunately, and very amateurishly, they lost two of their top batsmen KL Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara, with the team total at 28. Murali Vijay followed them after losing his focus when batting on 46. So did Rohit Sharma, who has continued to betray the trust reposed in him by his captain as well as coach Ravi Shastri.

Both, openers Vijay and Rahul, along with Pujara were expected to ensure they bat out the remainder of the second day, not requiring a night watchman.

This would have also ensured they provide Kohli ample time and runs on the board to come in and show his batting prowess.

Kohli, who led India under-19 to their World Cup victory 10 years ago, on Saturday offered encouraging words for the current team under coach Rahul Dravid.

Members of the current India under-19 team with coach Rahul Dravid.
Pic courtesy: Hindustan Times
"[You should] really look to stand out from the bunch. That should be the mindset of each and every player. Becasue it does present an opportunity. If other people get 50s and 60s, I would tell the batsmen to go out and get 120s and 130s at that level. And that's how you stand out. And people take notice of you," said Kohli to the u-19 boys ahead of their opening match against Australia, which
they won by 100 runs.

It'll be now upto Kohli himself to put his words for the under-19 team into action and score a big hundred for the senior team in Centurion. In other words: Practice what you preach.

Expecting wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel, Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin and the tailenders to cover up for the top order's failures would be akin to picking up a bad habit and enjoying it.

Pandya and the tailenders did impress in the first Test. The runs they score in this second Test should be considered as bonus runs that'll work as cushion for them when they bowl to South Africa in their second innings.