Virat Kohli needs India batsmen to improve for any chance in South Africa

India's captain Virat Kohli knows its his team's batting line-up that need to improve if they are to get anything from the tour of South Africa. (REUTERS)
Updated 09 January 2018

Virat Kohli needs India batsmen to improve for any chance in South Africa

CAPE TOWN: Almost exactly a decade ago, India went to Perth to try and stop Ricky Ponting’s amazing side extending their winning streak to an unprecedented 17 Tests. For 22 years, no touring side other than West Indies (in their halcyon years) had won at the WACA, and India were faced with a four-man pace attack of Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Stuart Clark and Shaun Tait. But with Rahul Dravid (93) and Sachin Tendulkar doing the hard yards in the first innings, and VVS Laxman (79) leading the way in the second, India capitalized on a brilliant bowling performance to win by 72 runs.
It was the same margin that they lost by at Newlands on Monday (January 8), against other four-man pace attack, though South Africa had to do without the injured Dale Steyn in the second innings. Hardik Pandya contributed a sensational 93 in the first innings, but the next highest scores for India in the match were R Ashwin’s 37 and Virat Kohli’s 28 in the second dig. You don’t need a degree in rocket science to figure out why India lost.
Unlike some of his predecessors, Kohli has never hidden behind excuses. He didn’t hesitate to point the finger, even at himself. Lauding the bowlers for taking 20 wickets, he said: “If your batsmen don’t bat well, then it doesn’t matter. If you are not getting close to their total, it doesn’t matter if you have taken 20 wickets or not.
“We needed to bat better than we did. Hardik showed great character in the first innings to get us to that total. We needed if not one big partnership, then every wicket adding 30 to 35 would have done the job for us. We needed to show more character with the bat. There is no question about it.”
Kohli also spoke of intent, and it wasn’t hard to see where he was coming from. As much as Vernon Philander’s devastating spell on the fourth afternoon, it was South Africa’s batting after they slumped to 12 for three on the first morning that underpinned the victory. AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock, Philander and Keshav Maharaj accounted for 228 of the 286 South Africa made. But more importantly, they took just 310 balls to score them.
That Pandya scored at nearly a run a ball to rattle the hosts was telling. Even in the second innings, those that scored at a fast clip, Kohli and Ashwin, looked most at ease. “Credit has to go to their bowlers because they created unrelenting pressure, and it is something that we need to counter,” said Kohli. “Maybe we need to be more positive in the next innings and take their bowlers on and get good runs on the board just like they did when they were put under pressure.”
Whether India have the personnel to do that is another matter. Tendulkar averaged 54.74 away from home, while Dravid wasn’t far behind with 53.03. Laxman, whose 96 was instrumental in the victory in Durban in 2010, averaged 42.49 away from India. Of the specialist batsmen that played in Cape Town, only Kohli and Murali Vijay have more than one Test hundred outside Asia.
Kohli and Ravi Shastri, the coach, are unlikely to reach for the panic button just yet, but Ajinkya Rahane, the vice-captain, and KL Rahul, the reserve opener who struck six half-centuries against a very strong Australian bowling attack on home soil in 2017, will doubtless see their claims scrutinized. Rohit Sharma, who averages 60 runs less an innings away from home, and Shikhar Dhawan are the ones with quicksand beneath their feet.
Not since that Durban win seven years ago, when they took all 20 wickets for 346 runs, have India bowled as well in an away game. That they left Newlands with nothing to show for it will irk Kohli no end. He’ll also know that it’s he and the other batsmen that need to rewrite the script.
Whether Philander and his unrelenting mates will give them even Post-its to scribble on is another matter.

Adailton fires Tokyo into Asian Champions League last 16

Updated 15 min 40 sec ago

Adailton fires Tokyo into Asian Champions League last 16

DOHA, Qatar: Brazilian midfielder Adailton scored a brilliant solo goal in the first half as FC Tokyo edged past Perth Glory 1-0 to seal the second round-of-16 spot from Group F in the Asian Champions League on Thursday.

South Korean giants Ulsan Hyundai had already made the cut as guaranteed group winners, leaving FC Tokyo and Shanghai Shenhua scrapping for second place with both teams on seven points from five matches.

But Shanghai Shenhua fell to a crushing 4-1 defeat by Ulsan on Thursday to exit the tournament, while FC Tokyo’s narrow win over Perth Glory helped them maintain their record of qualifying for the knockout phase every year since their continental debut in 2012.

Adailton was in the thick of the action in the very first minute at the Education City Stadium when he went for a spectacular bicycle kick off a cross from Takuya Uchida only to see the ball sail over the goalpost.

But he compensated for that miss in style seven minutes later with a brilliant 30-yard burst down the left flank, scoring with a curling shot past Perth goalkeeper Liam Reddy.

Two minutes later, Adailton found himself in a great position to strike again but his powerful effort from outside the penalty area saw Reddy producing a fine save.

Perth Glory took control of the match in the second half but could not get past the Tokyo defence, ending up at the bottom of the table with just one point from six matches.

FC Tokyo coach Kente Hasegawa said he always had confidence in his team’s abilities.

“Today we are very happy about qualifying for the next round. Some players who didn’t play much before played today and Adailton scored a very good goal,” said Hasegawa.

“We tried to score more goals in the second half but also we knew the result of the other game (Ulsan were leading 2-0 against Shenhua at half time), so we were more comfortable.”

Perth Glory’s Cristian Ola said fatigue was a big factor for his team’s poor show.

“Not happy with the result but happy with our boys’ efforts and display considering it was their fifth game in a short space of time which is not something we are used to,” said Ola.

“Fatigue was our biggest opponent today but congratulations to FC Tokyo.”

Shanghai Shenhua’s defeat by Ulsan Hyundai meant they failed to make the last 16 for the first time since 2006.

Having booked their knockout berth earlier, Ulsan made several changes to their lineup but Park Jeong-in and Lee Sang-heon put them 2-0 ahead at the break.

Bjorn Johnsen then added a second-half brace as the Koreans recorded their fifth straight win.

“After we qualified for the round of 16, I expected a few players might lose concentration but all the players concentrated and played well,” said Ulsan coach Kim Do-hoon.

“We had a lot of young players and they did their job. I asked them to play aggressively with combination play and high press, and they did it all very well.”

Shanghai Shenhua’s Choi Kang-hee said the Covid-19 pandemic meant they faced a number of difficulties in playing the competition.

“We understand it’s a pandemic. It’s a special time, and we have to play in this kind of way, but we hope in the future the tournament won’t be played with such a tight fixture list.”