Virat Kohli came out all guns blazing in those final few overs at Hyderabad in the first T20I to help India chase down a massive 208. Even as analysts around the globe split his extraordinary innings into two halves – the fidgety one which he asked young batsmen not to follow and the trailblazing second half which set up India’s run-chase – we wonder if the tourists missed a glaring trick against India’s captain.
When India toured West Indies in 2018, Sheldon Cottrell accounted for Kohli twice – bowled off a yorker and caught pulling a slower bouncer. At Hyderabad, Cottrell was on for a third over – perhaps because West Indies knew the history – after Kohli walked in during the 4th over of the powerplay.
Here’s what transpired next:
Cottrell to Virat Kohli – 1st ball (Over 4.2) – a rising short ball outside off-stump. Kohli looks to drag it to the leg side and misses as the ball gets big on him.
Cottrell to Virat Kohli – 2nd ball (Over 4.3) – a full, swinging delivery into his pads that Kohli almost missed. The skipper nearly falls over on the flick, but is saved by an inside edge.
Cottrell to Virat Kohli – 3rd ball (Over 4.4) – a slower ball that Kohli wants to slam through covers, but it is inside edged back to Cottrell.
Cottrell to Virat Kohli – 4th ball (Over 4.5) – back of a length delivery that Kohli dabs to point for a single.
Cottrell to Virat Kohli – 5th ball (Over 16.1) – Cottrell returns for a final over by when Kohli is on 68 off 41 balls. He drives a single off the left-arm pacer first ball and never faces him in the innings again.
Five deliveries was all Cottrell got against Kohli at Hyderabad, and off three of them, he induced a false stroke.
In Florida last year, when Cottrell dismissed Kohli twice, he took just three balls – one delivery each in one over – in the first T20I and two balls in the second T20I to dismiss him.
However, there’s more than the aforementioned reason to believe Cottrell against Kohli is Windies’ best bet.
Kohli against left-arm pacers in T20s has an interesting history.
Across IPL and International cricket, here is a look at Kohli’s dismissals to left-arm pace.
Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Mitchell McCleneghan and Jason Behrendorff are a few left-arm pacers to enjoy success against the Indian no. 3. Cottrell is the latest in the bandwagon, but saving him for Kohli ought to be priority.
The RCB batsman was dismissed by Khaleel Ahmed, Harry Gurney and Behrendorff in the 2019 IPL season. Notably, on two of the three occasions, he edged behind to the keeper off length deliveries angling across him and getting extra bounce. Both times, he went for expansive drives without getting to the pitch of the ball, a tendency to go hard at the ball early in an innings.
Cottrell’s modus operandi against Kohli has been different. He has mixed his lengths and pace to trouble Kohli. The second at least isn’t a bad ploy against the Indian skipper in this format. He tends to go hard early on these days in T20s and a change in pace early is something which has disturbed this intent.
By trying to sneak in an over or two from Khary Pierre or Fabien Allen or even Hayden Walsh with the new ball – rememeber, Rohit isn’t too comfortable against leg-spinners; something which prompted Faf du Plessis to toss the new ball to Imran Tahir in the 2019 World Cup – West Indies might be able to save more overs from Cottrell to bowl at the Indian skipper.
All said and done, Kohli might well thrash him over cow corner for a six with a wristy flick and return a salute, but it remains West Indies’ best plan against the Indian skipper as they head to Kerala.