Australians cannot be 'pussycats' when dealing with Kohli: Hughes
Former Australian captain Kim Hughes has urged Australia not to be "pussycats" when it comes to trying to unsettle Indian skipper Virat Kohli this summer.
The tourists begin their campaign in earnest on Wednesday night at the Gabba when they face Australia in the first of three Twenty20 matches, with the series then shifting to Melbourne and Sydney.
The combative Kohli is the world's premier batsman, and his wicket will be pivotal regardless of the format the two teams are playing in. He insists he has changed, declaring he has matured and does not need on-field chat to stir his emotions although the incident in which he mocked England counterpart Joe Root during their recent series could suggest otherwise.
The Australians have generally gone hard at Kohli in previous series but the emphasis on cultural change and the players' pact has meant a less verbally driven outfit has taken the field in recent months, including during the Test series against Pakistan and during the one-day series against South Africa.
Virat Kohli training this week.Credit:AAP
Hughes, who says it is up to the umpires to maintain control, wants the home team this summer to maintain the "Australian way".
"You are not going to become pussycats. That's not racially vilifying him (Kohli) at all or anything like that but just a good stare, or a couple of words, that's part of the Australian way. Most blokes' nicknames are usually when you have a stuff-up, not when you have a had a glorious moment," he said.
"If he (Kohli) is not the best player in the world, he is in the final two or three … I think he is the best player in the world. When you have 1.2 billion people in the world supporting you and expecting you to do well, there is a fair bit of pressure. He is the type of player that you would feel as an opposition that you could get under his skin.
"Some are just unflappable, it doesn't seem to matter what happens to them, like a Clive Lloyd – nothing seemed to phase him. Where a Kohli, you just get the feeling that if things didn't go well, and you could keep the pressure on him, he might chuck the toys out of the cart.
"I saw him get a run-out once and he was blowing kisses, this sort of stuff. Therefore, and I think the other thing, the Indian players all gain a tremendous amount of faith and belief in him. That's why, if you can, you can really get into him, more mentally. The real challenge for him is to stay calm, don't get too emotional."
Kohli said on Tuesday he did not know how the Australians would act as he had yet to play them since the cultural change.
"We will definitely not take anything for granted here, regardless of any situation that is present. Our focus as a team is to play good quality cricket and win games of cricket," he said.
"We haven't played against Australia after everything that has happened. I can't really say what the atmosphere is going to be on the ground. We definitely just want to focus on quality cricket."
The change within the Australian side was noted by South African skipper Faf du Plessis, who said the "chirping and swearing have been really toned down".
Setting aside the damning Longstaff cultural report into the team and CA headquarters, Hughes said it was up to umpires to ensure players did not become overly vocal. He pointed to Dennis Lillee being told by umpires during a heated series against England in 1970-71 to stop swearing at Alan Knott otherwise he would be removed from the attack. Lillee obliged.
"The whole thing with the control of the game needs to be taken by the umpires. They have been negligent. We even had a situation not that long ago where Sri Lanka refused to play, to come out on to the ground, for two hours (against the West Indies when ball-tampering allegations were raised)," he said.
"That was after the sandpaper (scandal). All the umpires had to do was say, you have got two minutes to go out there or you are forfeiting the game. It's not about giving umpires more power – they already have the power."
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