“He’ll be putting a bit of pressure on himself, this [a win] will be the feather in the cap if he can pull this off,” Waugh told the Cricket Australia website. “Steve Smith had an incredible series [in India last year] and made three centuries and scored about 500 runs, and Virat hardly scored a run. So that would have been deflating for him, and he will look to square the ledger when he comes back to Australia.”
India reclaimed the Border-Gavaskar trophy 2-1 but they did so without Kohli making much of a contribution. He scored only 46 runs in five innings as the Australian bowlers found a way to keep him quiet.
One of them, Pat Cummins, who is currently recuperating from a back injury, was recently quoted as saying, “My brave, bold prediction; I’d say I think Virat Kohli is not going to get a hundred and we’re going to knock them off over here.” This threw back to the trend that was seen in the 2016-17 series, where tensions ran high among both teams.
Cummins later clarified that his comments were mostly tongue-in-cheek. “I was almost trying to do the opposite to the way they were perceived. I was trying to pay him a huge compliment and say that my big wish list for the summer was he doesn’t score a hundred.
“He’s obviously so important to the team and is such a gun batsman, so him not scoring runs would go a long way to helping us win. But I certainly didn’t mean to say he’s no good because I couldn’t hold him in higher regard.”
Kohli is currently ranked the No. 1 batsman in Test cricket after a spellbinding century in tough conditions at Edgbaston last week. He was also instrumental in the Johannesburg Test in January, scoring 54 and 41 on a pitch that was characterised by spiteful variations in bounce, and has carried the Indian batting on their most recent overseas trips. Additionally, Kohli amassed 692 runs from four Tests on his previous tour of Australia in 2014-15.
“He has got the game to survive anywhere, I think he’s got the best technique of anyone in world cricket,” Waugh said. “He and AB de Villiers have got the best techniques, and AB de Villiers is not playing Test cricket so that makes him (Kohli) the stand-out player.
“I think Steve Smith is probably the hungriest batsman but he’s obviously not playing for 12 months, so Kohli really is the premier batsman in world cricket. And he likes the big occasion.
“Like (Brian) Lara and Tendulkar and (Viv) Richards and Javed Miandad, and all the great batsmen, they want the big occasion and that brings out the best in their cricket.”
As such, Waugh suggested it was up to the Australian batsmen to pile Kohli under scoreboard pressure.
“I think the best way to control him is for our guys to play really positive cricket, to concentrate on executing the team plans and to score 300-plus runs in our first innings so we can put pressure on their batting line-up.
“Our attack is as good as anyone’s and, in our conditions, he’ll have to be on his game and particularly if he’s chasing some big scores that Australia have put on the board. That will put pressure on his batting. I think the only thing Australia can do is really control how well we’re playing. If we play really good cricket, then it’s a bit like the last series in India where Steve Smith totally dominated him.”