Australia have yet to work out a plan to foil India captain Virat Kohli beyond bowling well and hoping for some “luck” against the in-form batsman, coach Darren Lehmann has said. Kohli was man-of-the-series against England, plundering 655 runs off their bowlers at an average of 109.16 to comfortably top the batting charts during the 4-0 win in November and December.
The buccaneering 28-year-old looms as a huge obstacle to Australia’s hopes of capturing a first series win in India since 2004, with the first test to start in Pune on February 23. Kohli has scored six of his 15 centuries in his 12 matches against Australia, averaging 60.76 compared to his overall average of 50.10.
Former test batsman Lehmann, a member of that victorious Australian side, said his players had been watching videos of Kohli and his team mates for months but were yet to work out how to combat the India skipper. “Bowl well and have a bit of luck along the way,” Lehmann told reporters.
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“For us we’re going to have to come up with an ideal plan that works for us, depending on (the) wickets and what’s going on. “At the end of the day you’re going to have to bowl enough good balls and that’s going to be the challenge for our spinners and for our quicks, challenging his defence and making sure he’s playing in the areas we want him to play.”
Michael Clarke’s Australia were whitewashed 4-0 during their last tour of India in 2013 where a breakdown in team discipline prompted former coach Mickey Arthur to sensationally stand down four players for a match for failing to complete an off-field assignment, the infamous ‘homework-gate’ incident.
Australia were outclassed by bat, ball and in the field during that tour, but four years later, Lehmann said Steve Smith’s side have the bowlers to take 20 wickets against Kohli’s men. “We’ve got spinners who can take 20 wickets and quicks who can reverse the ball,” he said.
“So we’re not fearing getting the 20 wickets, we’ve just got to put enough scoreboard pressure on them.” That would mean a break-out performance from at least one of their batsmen, similar to the 2004 efforts of Damien Martyn and Clarke, Lehmann added.
Martyn and Clarke, who made his test debut in the series, together scored over 800 runs to set a solid platform for Australia’s bowlers, led by pacemen Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie, and spinner Shane Warne. “The great thing with the Australian cricket team for years has been, backs to the wall brings the best out of players,” said Lehmann.
“Someone like Matthew Hayden will stand up or Damien Martyn will come out of nowhere and actually play well on a tour. “We hope we’ll have a Martyn or a Hayden-type series from someone. And if we do that we’ll make enough runs, obviously. “It’s a great challenge for the group, being a young group and they’ll be giving it their all.”