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Joe Root says England need better plan to counter India’s Virat Kohli

The Guardian logo The Guardian 17-01-2017 Barney Ronay in Pune
Virat Kohli watches the ball after playing a shot: Virat Kohli has scored 777 runs against England this winter. © AFP Virat Kohli has scored 777 runs against England this winter.

Joe Root has said that England need to work on their bowling plans for Virat Kohli after the stunning three-wicket defeat at a febrile Maharashtra Cricket Stadium on Sunday.

Kohli produced a masterclass alongside the relative newcomer Kedar Jadhav to chase down England’s record one-day international score against India. Eoin Morgan suggested later that during Kohli’s innings England’s plan had been to “bowl at the guy at the other end”, a plan that came unstuck on this occasion as the guy at the other end, Jadhav, scored a hundred off 65 balls.

Speaking at the team hotel in Pune before the second ODI in Cuttack on Thursday, Root agreed that more planning may have to go into finding a weakness.

“It was disappointing how it panned out considering the start we had,” he said. “One thing we noticed is that early on he chanced his arm which you have to, I suppose, to get up near the run rate.

“We didn’t get the opportunities to stick, and in hindsight if we could have slightly more individual plans to him then that could be a way to go. He got one just over third man and it looked like we were going to take a wicket at any stage in that five-over period after [MS] Dhoni got out.

“One thing he did was talk his partner through it at the other end and helped him construct his innings. There was a lot of thought behind it and for us, that is something we’ve got to learn from.”

Given that Kohli has taken the tourists for 777 runs at 111 in combined Tests and ODIs since November, England will presumably have set their considerable team of backroom staff to work looking for any pattern of occasional discomfort through the glare of his sublime form.

Apart from Kohli’s vulnerability to hitting the ball in the air when he has already destroyed a bowling attack, it is easy to sympathise here. Six of his seven dismissals in this tour have been out caught driving, for what it’s worth. Perhaps Adil Rashid could somehow tempt Kohli into treading on his stumps again as he did in Rajkot before the run-tap was switched on.

Watching Kohli, who has played almost a hundred more ODIs than Root, has also been an education for England’s No3. “He’s one of the best at run chases in the game, in fact he probably is the best at it. His record says he’s got 15 hundreds chasing scores down now. I’d love to sit and chat to him, but I’ve not had that opportunity yet. Definitely watching him go about his business there is a lot of thought behind it.”

Otherwise Root is learning to deal with the added joys and burdens of fatherhood, albeit his own experience has been limited to just four days with his first child before coming on tour. “It is not ideal and it wasn’t a nice morning having to leave them both behind but it is an occupational hazard in a way and you have to get out here and get stuck into your cricket.”

There have been tips from others: “Stokesy has been talking me through the gruesome details of what he has been through to do with nappy changing and stuff”. One thing that hasn’t been discussed, apparently, is the England captaincy, for which Root appears to be the unanimously anointed successor.

Claims that he has not talked about this once with Alastair Cook or anyone else in the England hierarchy should perhaps be taken as courtesy towards his own team and respect for a much-valued incumbent. “I’m clueless about what’s going on,” Root said of Cook’s immediate future. “I just hope he makes a decision he’s happy with and as a player I really would like to see him continue as captain.”

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