Kohli banks on priceless Kumar and fearless Ashwin

Published October 17, 2021
In this file photo, India's captain Virat Kohli addresses media representatives during a press conference at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England on July 8, 2019. — AFP/File
In this file photo, India's captain Virat Kohli addresses media representatives during a press conference at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England on July 8, 2019. — AFP/File

DUBAI: India captain Virat Kohli believes swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar will prove quite a handful with the new ball in the Twenty20 World Cup, and said off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin’s fearless bowling will boost their title hopes.

Going by the just-concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) in the United Arab Emirates, swing bowlers could struggle to get any movement on the low and slow pitches in the UAE.

Kumar has built his reputation around his ability to swing the ball, but Kohli said the 31-year-old had other tricks up his sleeve.

“His economy rate still continues to be top notch, something that he’s always been known for, and his experience comes to the fore under pressure,” Kohli said at a pre-tournament media session on Saturday.

[It’s] his understanding of hitting the areas according to the dimensions of field, and what balls to bowl and at what line. Bhuvi’s experience is going to be priceless.”

Ashwin is also back in the Twenty20 fold after a two-year gap and Kohli said it was a just reward for the bowler, who had reinvented himself in the game’s shortest format.

“One thing that Ashwin has really improved on is bowling with a lot of courage in white ball cricket,” Kohli said. “If you see the IPL in the last couple of years, he’s bowled the difficult overs, he’s bowled against the top players in the IPL...”

Kohli also hailed Mahendra Singh Dhoni as an ‘inspiration’ who had a ‘huge impact’ on his cricketing journey.

Dhoni, who on Friday led Chennai Super Kings to their fourth IPL crown, captained India to the T20 world title in 2007.

Kohli said the former captain’s presence in the dressing room as team mentor will inspire an already confident unit.

“He has always been a mentor for all of us when we were starting our careers through till the time we played with the team and now has an opportunity to continue to do that same work again.

“Younger guys who are playing their first major tournaments at early stages of their careers will benefit from his practical inputs, the intricate details of where the game is going and how we can improve.

“So we are delighted to have him back in this environment and his presence will certainly boost the morale of the team further and give us a lot more confidence than we already have as a team.”

Two-time champions West Indies will begin their title defence on Oct 23 match against reigning 50-overs world champions England.

Skipper Pollard said that while six-hitting prowess was their strength, the West Indies are no one-trick pony. “A lot of analysts keep harping on dot balls, [lack of] ones and twos,” the all-rounder said. “For us, everything is important but we still have to play to our strengths... We continue to work on our weaknesses and continue to keep our strength as our strength, and let’s see what happens.

“We have a lot of powerful guys in our lineup, but..we also have guys who are able to manoeuvre the strike, run between the wickets.

“We’re looking forward to trying to play complete games of cricket... Then the results take care of itself.”

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2021

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