With the Indian skipper now a proven all conditions great and in the form of his life at the highest level, it becomes absolutely vital for Australia to be at their best against him and make Virat Kohli work extremely hard for his runs during the Test series, said former pacer, Jason Gillespie.
"You need to be switched on from ball one. Because if Kohli has faced 20-odd balls and he has got more than 10-15 runs, he usually gets a significant score. And that is why it is so crucial to impact early. There cannot be any warm-up deliveries against Kohli. Don’t allow him to get going by giving him an easy shot — a half-volley, a tuck off the hip, a cut shot," Gillespie told ESPNcricinfo.
"If he is going to score runs, make him earn them, make him play really good shots, and make him take a risk," he emphasized for the hosts, "That applies to every batsman, but because Kohli is such a big and important player in this Indian side and so much rests on him as captain," before stressing, "it is really important to make sure you are switched on and you are bowling the best delivery you can."
Assessing how important to this objective is the ability to move the ball through the air and off the surface early on in the innings, Gillespie further said, "Everyone thinks Kohli has no weaknesses, and that is fair. He has a lot of strengths. But in England when the ball seamed or swung a little bit, I noticed he, at times, went really hard at the ball. I would like the Australian bowlers to have a look at that."
"On good surfaces where the ball is not really swinging or seaming, even if the length is not really quite there to drive, Kohli might still throw his hands at it and he will connect 99 times out of 100. But those deliveries in the UK were a bit different, with the Dukes ball, where Kohli nicked to the keeper and slips reasonably early a few times," he added.
Virat has scored five hundreds across his last two Test tours down under and is definitely better equipped to amass a lot more through his improved technical prowess. But, Gillespie feels that the likes of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc can still target him around the off-stump.
He said, "That fourth-stump line, about bail-high, with the potential movement away would be my stock ball to Kohli as a right-arm bowler. The variation would be the one that is pitched on off stump and just holds its line. And maybe even look to angle the ball back in to create the opportunity for bowled or lbw. To me, that would be a really simple, easily implementable plan."
"Bowling straight was also a good counter to Kohli’s strategy in England this summer. He was plonking his front foot towards the off stump and flicking it to midwicket. It got him to get off strike easily."
"But if you maintain that off stump or fourth-stump line I am talking about, with the ball going away from him, if he tries to access those deliveries, to get over them, then there is the potential it could hurt him," he signed off.
The Border-Gavaskar kickstarts with the first Test at Adelaide from Thursday, December 6.