Melbourne: Virat Kohli will be Australia’s “public enemy number one” during the upcoming Test series against India, according to former batsman Michael Hussey but he has advised Steve Smith and Co. not to sledge him as it would bring the best out of the Indian captain.
Hussey, who has averaged more on Asian soil than any other Aussie batsman to have played five Tests or more in those foreign conditions, said riling Kohli may backfire on the Australians and they should instead focus on a plan to dismiss him cheaply during the series starting February 23.
“From an Australian point of view, Kohli is public enemy No.1 and we have to get him out cheaply. I wouldn’t try and fire him (Kohli) up. I think he thrives on that and he’s a real competitor. He loves being in the fight and loves the contest out in the middle,” Hussey was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
“I’d make sure we have some very clear plans and we try and stick to them as best as we possibly can. There’s no need to get involved in that sort of verbal barrage because I think that fires him up even more. You don’t want to get carried away with too much talk and lose your concentration of what’s important, which is executing your skills,” said Hussey, who retired in 2013 after scoring 6235 runs from 79 Tests.
He said the result of the series will not be decided by which team is more verbal but on the basis of better execution of plans with more consistency.
“The team that wins will be the one that can execute their skills at the highest quality and for the longest period of time. It’s not going to be the team that’s the most verbal or the most aggressive,” said the 41-year-old who has played for IPL side Chennai Super Kings.
Kohli has been India’s dominant batsman in the last couple of years and he made Australia pay a price for verbally targeting him during the Boxing Day Test at the MCG in 2014.
The Delhi batsman scored his then personal-best of 169 in that drawn match and took aim at those Australian opponents with whom he had sparred during his innings.
Kohli had clashed with Smith during the opening Test of that series in Adelaide before taking on each other later again when the Indian captain took exception to the Australian skipper’s role as an on-field commentator.
Hussey said the individual battle between the rival captains will be decisive in the series, where Australia has triumphed just once in a Test campaign in almost 50 years.
“Kohli is very confident at the moment, he knows the conditions so well and generally if he plays well, India win.
“And it’s similar with Australia — Steve Smith and David Warner are the two most important batsmen in the Australian line-up and if they score runs, generally Australia go well.
If they don’t, the other batsmen are under enormous pressure,” Hussey said.
“I’m sure India will be looking at Steve Smith as the key man they want to get out.