Australia beat Pakistan to stay in semi-final hunt
MOHALI: He's one of the finest batsmen in the world – since Sachin Tendulkar's retirement, certainly the most revered – and, amid of a series of run-ins between Australia and India, he also never seems to be too far from the action.
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Shane Watson emerges as a key figure for Australia ahead of the World T20 clash with India.
With the stakes elevated in Sunday night's (1am Monday, AEDT) knockout match for a World Twenty20 semi-final berth, Virat Kohli has again been identified as the man Australia must stop.
The issue is how.
"We've tried a few different things, it hasn't really worked," said Australia's elder statesman Shane Watson. "The silent treatment ... we thought it might work but he still just goes about his business and is able to churn out the runs. And we've also gone fairly hard at him as well, at times.
"I've only ever seen it affect him [for] about two balls, once, and I dropped him at slip. He knows his game incredibly well and, whichever way we go, we're just going to have to be at our best to try to get him out early. Because, once he gets in, he certainly knows how to put pressure on bowlers."
Kohli did just that at the MCG in January during the one-day series, scoring a run-a-ball 117 and telling a sledging James Faulkner that he was "wasting his energy". "There's no point," Kohli said. "I've smashed you enough in my life. Just go and bowl."
Whether or not Australia go hard at him again is yet to be seen but the feisty Kohli, 27, is no stranger to opting for aggression himself: he was one of three Indian players charged during the 2014/15 Test series in Australia, a summer that culminated in David Warner's "Speak English" incident with Rohit Sharma.
Kohli said on Saturday: "I always say I tend to thrive on those situations but you just cannot go in with that sort of mindset only. You need to be versatile and able to play within yourself as well.
"That's something that I'm learning. I'm pretty sure of the plans I take into the middle but if I get into a debate with someone or if I have to take a certain stand that necessarily doesn't put me off my game. If anything it motivates me."
With so much on the line on Sunday – particularly for an Indian side carrying so much expectation on home soil – Watson wouldn't be surprised if an electrifying pro-India atmosphere at the Punjab Cricket Association ground leads to another instalment in the teams' robust relations.
Claiming he is no longer the antagonist from first slip, the soon-to-retire all-rounder – this will be his last game for Australia if they are beaten – said he would counsel less-experienced teammates on how best to handle the occasion.
"There's no doubt, if I say something in one of the meeting or in the lead-up to the game, [it will be about] how things can get fairly heated and they have in the past," Watson said.
"I was normally in the thick of things as well. There's no doubt I learnt a lot through those experiences because no doubt it means so much to the Indian players as it does for us. Sometimes things can get heated fairly quickly, especially in an environment with the crowd intensity like it is as well.
"More than anything, it's going to be a great experience for these young guys, but there's no doubt I'll be saying a few things from my experience in the lead-up or over the next couple of days."
Faulkner shrugged off the suggestion of any residual tension with Kohli ahead of the final Super 10 group match.
"I saw him at the hotel in Bangalore, he's fine," Faulkner said. "There's nothing going on there, it's just a bit of friendly banter. We know how good a player he is and everyone tries to get good players off their game."
India beat Australia 3-0 in that T20 series in January but the hosts haven't been at their best at this tournament, defeated comfortably by New Zealand in Nagpur and only staying alive by miraculously beating Bangladesh in Bangalore.
Watson believes not much can be read into that three-match series as the Australians were experimenting with what team to take to this tournament.
"We've got a very different team from those games we played," he said.
"We went through quite a few players throughout those three games so now we've been a bit more settled any way as a unit. That's a great starting point for us compared with India, who have been just about the same team all the way through."
Australia (likely): Usman Khawaja, Aaron Finch, David Warner, Steve Smith (c), Glenn Maxwell, Shane Watson, James Faulkner, Peter Nevill, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood.
India (likely): Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Hardik Pandya, MS Dhoni (c), Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ashish Nehra, Jasprit Bumrah.