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Is in-form Virat Kohli becoming Aussie pacer Nathan Coulter-Nile’s bunny?

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 04/10/2017
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Virat Kohli and his ever-improving Indian cricket teammates have made a mockery of their opponents in the last few months. In familiar conditions, they have ensured that the team is not reliant on one player. Yet, it is Kohli’s wicket that remains the most prized one for any rival.

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On that front, Nathan Coulter-Nile can boast of providing the struggling Australian cricket team a silver lining.

In the recently-finished five-ODI series, Coulter-Nile dismissed the Indian cricket team captain three times. For a demoralised Australian side, searching for inspiration, it is a big positive. For Kohli, it’s a blemish that he would want to erase before the Australians return home.

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Similar dismissals

Of the three times Virat Kohli fell to Coulter-Nile, twice the dismissals bore a striking resemblance. In the second ODI in Kolkata, Kohli, batting on 92, chose to direct Coulter-Nile towards third-man but got an inside edge and was bowled.

In the fourth ODI in Bangalore, Coulter-Nile dismissed Kohli in similar fashion. Off a good length delivery from the Aussie speedster, that was going outside off, Kohli attempted to hit towards third-man. The ball took an inside edge and hit the stumps. India, ultimately, fell short by 21 runs, chasing 335.

Before that Coulter-Nile also got him in the first ODI in Chennai for a duck. Kohli attempted to drive the fast bowler off a wide delivery and was caught by Glenn Maxwell at backward point. It brought back memories of India’s 2014 tour of England when James Anderson and Stuart Broad constantly targeted the Indian batsman’s weakness on the off-side.

Kohli has come a long way from that tour but Coulter-Nile once again showed his vulnerability.

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Still among top

Kohli, despite falling to the same bowler thrice in five matches, finished with 180 runs. Rohit Sharma (296), Ajinkya Rahane (244) and Hardik Pandya (222) scored more than him.

With India on a purple patch, the positives will justifiably be highlighted more but with the long-term target being the 2019 World Cup, Virat Kohli would want to negate all weaknesses before the showpiece event in England.

It’s the same place where Kohli’s India had finished runners-up to Pakistan at the ICC Champions Trophy. In that tournament, Kohli stayed unbeaten in three of the five matches. But the two matches he got out – against Sri Lanka and against Pakistan in the final – the captain fell to two back of length deliveries that invited him to play outside off. The first one was bowled by Nuwan Pradeep and the second by Mohammad Amir.

The World Cup is still a good two years away and Kohli would want to iron out this flaw as he remains the most prized batsmen in this Indian line-up, filled with top talent. He had earlier said how Sanjay Bangar helped him overcome his weakness against the moving ball and would want to take his help again.

Coulter-Nile’s opportunity

Nathan Coulter-Nile has made full use of the opportunity in the absence of top Australian pacers like Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. With 10 wickets, the pacer has been the best Australian bowler.

Next month, Australia will be playing the Ashes. Australia’s Big Three pacers - Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins – will surely be preferred against England in the Ashes. But if any injury issue springs up, Coulter-Nile has presented his case well to be in contention.

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