Long Streak Of Matches Will Help MS Dhoni Find Momentum: Virat Kohli

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Photo Courtesy: Prokerala.com

PALLEKELE: Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s form and future has been under scanner post his Test retirement but a string of limited overs matches in the next three months will enable the former skipper get some momentum and consistency going his way, feels skipper Virat Kohli.

Dhoni’s form has been on the wane and Kohli is hoping that the next 24 limited overs matches will help Dhoni get his mojo back.

“This coming season gives us an opportunity to define roles for players and give them time to execute it so that for the World Cup, we know exactly what one player needs to do in certain situations,” Kohli told mediapersons ahead of second ODI.

“And it helps someone like MS also because he doesn’t play Test cricket anymore. This long streak of matches will help him be in touch with the international games, find some momentum and stick to it,” Kohli added.

For the skipper, it’s about growing good habits and sustaining them in the lead upto the World Cup.

“So it’s an opportunity for everyone in the team including MS to create good habits and sustain them over a period of time,” the skipper made it amply clear how much he wishes to have an in-form Dhoni in the team.

Kohli also feels that Axar Patel as a package is a more utility cricketer compared to chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, which is the reason he was preferred in the playing XI.

“It was a case of having two left-arm spinners that led us not playing Kuldeep in the first game. Axar was favoured more than Kuldeep from the point of view that he bats quite well and he is a gun (great) in the field also. Kuldeep has got opportunities in the past,” he said.

“(Yuzvendra) Chahal and Axar are guys who haven’t got many opportunities so we want to test them out. It’s all about giving opportunities to people which we feel will not hamper our plans in any way and at the same time, it’s about giving them exposure at international cricket,” he further added.

But Kuldeep very much remains in thick of things.

“Kuldeep remains in the thick of things all the time. To have a guy like that in the team is always a boost. You might see two wrist spinners playing together if we feel that we don’t need that much depth in the batting in the coming games,” said the skipper.

About giving Hardik Pandya the new ball, Kohli said that the all-rounder can use his height to a good advantage getting an extra bit of bounce.

“Hardik has the ability to swing the ball and he can bowl consistently over 135 km/hr. With the new ball, he can get a bit of extra bounce because of his height. He has bowled with the new ball in India against England and against New Zealand in a few games as well. We certainly look at it as a great option for us.

“Being the fifth bowler in the team, we can get four-five overs out of the way in the first 10, when the ball is swinging. Also Jasprit Bumrah is our strike bowler and he comes in one-change. The teams obviously will be a bit more wary against him so that really gives us good balance in terms of whom to use when,” he added.

© THE TIMES OF INDIA

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Magnificent Virat Kohli Makes It 5-0 For India

Unbeaten Virat Kohli (139) helps India overwhelm Sri Lanka by three wickets in Ranchi.

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Virat Kohli celebrates after scoring a century in Ranchi.

A sublime Virat Kohli hunted down Sri Lanka’s 286, to complete India’s absolute domination in this series, while checking off the only conspicuous individual milestone that had been missing from the tour thus far – a Kohli hundred.

Five India batsmen have hit centuries in the series, but for poise and execution, Kohli’s cannot be beaten. He arrived with India in slight trouble, watched on aghast as his middle order deserted him in a crucial period, but picked apart the Sri Lanka death bowlers expertly, to see India home in the penultimate over. MS Dhoni was not on hand to deliver his trademark late-innings barrage, but as the target neared Kohli even struck a helicopter-shot of sorts, to put the ball in the stands behind long-on, and sealed the match with a six, for good measure. Having finished on 139* off 126, Kohli roared at the game’s conclusion, plucked a stump from the pitch and soaked in the applause from a delighted Ranchi crowd.

All this despite an expertly paced 139* from a desperate Angelo Mathews earlier in the match, and a four-wicket haul for Ajantha Mendis, on the first track of the series that offered significant turn. Having been the first Sri Lanka captain to lead his side to a Test series victory in England this year, Mathews now has the ignominy of presiding over Sri Lanka’s worst-ever one-day whitewash. Though, having taken two wickets and a fine catch in addition to his ton, Mathews might fairly feel his team could have supported him better.

Every other centurion in the series had sought to ground himself with a quiet period early in his innings, but in chases, Kohli is immune to the laws that bind other batsmen. He arrived at 14 for 2, and creamed a square boundary off his fourth ball. His strike rate did not stray far from a run-a-ball after that. An economical push through cover that sent the ball screaming to the rope, and a wristy flick to the midwicket boundary – both off Shaminda Eranga – were the highlights of his early stay.

Amabati Rayudu began with more jitters, but was soon fluent alongside his captain, as the pair forged a 136-run stand that became the gut of the chase. Rayudu found most of his runs in the arc between cover and midwicket, but Kohli milked the spinners square adeptly. Having travelled at 3.4 runs per over in the mandatory Powerplay, India were ticking along at over five by the 20th. Kohli drove through the covers for four to reach his half-century in 48 balls, eight overs before Rayudu managed the same milestone.

The pair would be separated by a running mix up, which Kohli immediately apologised for. But as long as Kohli stood at the crease, India’s hopes never dwindled, even with wickets tumbling at the other end.

Sri Lanka’s best hope of locking down the chase came soon after Rayudu’s dismissal, when they, and the other India batsmen, managed to starve Kohli of the strike. Kohli faced only 16 of the 60 balls between the 36th and 45th overs, while debutant Kedar Jadhav, Stuart Binny and R Ashwin all lost their wickets to Ajantha Mendis, as a sometimes-disappointed, sometimes-irate Kohli watched on from the other end. During that 10-over stretch, Kohli also took the single that took him to his 14th ton in ODI chases. India required 47 off the last five overs, but with a capable Akshar Patel in at No. 9, Kohli broke the back of the required rate with a six and a four off Mendis, then struck two more sixes off the same bowler to knock off the final runs.

“We’re playing for pride, and we’re not the kind of team to lose 5-0,” Mathews had said at the toss, and when his own top order failed again, Mathews took on the job himself. Having walked in at 73 for 3, then seen his team slip to 84 for 4, Mathews provided first the spine, then the muscle of Sri Lanka’s first competitive score of the series.

He had Lahiru Thirimanne for company for the recovery phase, and their 128-run stand was measured work. Kohli had his three frontline spinners in operation through the middle overs, and despite the turn on offer, and the men Kohli had placed around the bat, Thirimanne and Mathews worked themselves into a steady rhythm. Both scored heavily through the leg side, mining the gaps through midwicket and fine leg most often, and occasionally preying on a bad ball to reap a boundary.

Sri Lanka did not lose a wicket in the batting Powerplay for the first time in the series, but they were also thoroughly unambitious through that stretch. Mathews hit a six off the 40th over to reach his half-century, and yet Sri Lanka scored only 26 with the field pulled in. That conservatism would pay. Mathews gathered pace at the death to help claim 114 from the last 10 overs.

Having been 53 off 79 balls at the end of the 40th over, Mathews was soon loping towards three figures, as he launched Ambati Rayudu’s 41st over for two sixes and a four. Mathews has been nervous in the vicinity of three figures in the past, but he was quickly through the nineties in Ranchi, to claim his hundred with a flick to leg side. He celebrated it with a cathartic skip, and more catharsis was to follow.

Akshar Patel’s 48th over featured three towering leg-side sixes off Mathews’ blade, and Ashwin’s 49th had two more. When the innings wound down, with a string of wickets having fallen at the other end, Mathews had hit 10 sixes in total – the most for a Sri Lanka batsman, aside from Sanath Jayasuriya.

But not even Mathews’ desperation was enough to foil India. Mathews’ 139 not out would be trumped by the same score, from his opposite number. Mathews may have had an epic year in Tests, but the other rising young leader in world cricket proved he is still the gold-standard in ODIs.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

I See A Bit Of Myself In Virat Kohli: Ravi Shastri

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Virat Kohli-led India have played with fire and aggression in the series against Sri Lanka

With India playing with a new-found spunk under stand-in skipper Virat Kohli, Team Director, Ravi Shastri, said that he sees a bit of himself in the flamboyant Delhi batsman. “He’s aggressive and he’s very young, so the exuberance is still seen in him, which is very good for the team. And I see a bit of myself in him,” Shastri said during an interaction with management students.

“Even when I was 20-22 years of age, the adrenaline was running high. We’ve have been playing some good cricket. It’s a passionate bunch of boys.” By his own admission, Kohli has brought the ruthless factor into the side as India outplayed Sri Lanka in the first four ODIs to take a 4-0 lead going to Ranchi for the last ODI on Sunday.

With Rohit Sharma going berserk in a breathtaking world record 264, India piled 404/5 for yet another merciless win against Sri Lanka. Lavishing praise on Sharma, the former India skipper said “I just told him to spend some time in the middle and he responded well to the pressure.”

Shastri said that pressure always brings out the best in one. “Sometimes having butterflies in your stomach is good… He was under pressure scoring the initial 10-15 runs, but once he overcame the phase, everything fell in place,” he concluded.

© Cricbuzz (With Inputs From Agencies)