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Virat Kohli's latest trick: Carry Sri Lanka along to South Africa

by Gaurav Sethi

Here’s a case of familiarity breeding anything but contempt. Virat Kohli is on a roll – three centuries in his last three Tests, two double hundreds in his last two innings. 104, 213, 243 – those are Kohli’s last three scores against Sri Lanka.
Overall, Kohli has played against Sri Lanka in nine Tests, and because often once is enough for him, he’s batted in only 14 innings against them – out of his 5218 career Test runs, he has 954 against his latest bowling buddies. His batting average shoots to an obscene 79.50 against them. That’s nearly 26 more than his career average of 53.79.
But that’s not all. His strike-rate too shoots from 57.98 to 68.58 against Sri Lanka. While it does appear that Kohli must have scored the bulk of his centuries against them, it’s merely five out of a total tally of 20. The last four, in fact, have come in the last two series against them.
No wonder Virat Kohli’s latest plans haven’t come as a surprise to those in the know. Come 2018 and India will play three Tests in South Africa. The catch is, there is just one warm-up match, that too a two-bit two-day game. A tongue twister alright, but if India doesn't watch out, they’ll be twisting and shouting to the Protea’s tune.
Virat Kohli is well aware of the threats these hostile South African pitches hold for his batsmen, himself included. Bad enough playing in those conditions, add to that the formidable South African bowling to combat – could well be a case of double trouble. To ease some of their worries, the Indian team management has poked their finger into a loophole and taken some extreme precautionary measures.
India may have agreed to play three Tests in South Africa but nowhere in the fine print does it say that they have to play against South Africa. That’s almost a given but not quite. And that is where the Machiavellian minds have swung into action – India will carry Sri Lanka along with them and play them in the three Test matches. As for the South African team, India will play them in the six ODIs and three T20s that follow the Tests.
Kohli was chuffed when he said, “I think the Lankans will not be able to hide their faces behind masks in South Africa. And when I score three back-to-back centuries against them there, nobody will be able to point a finger at me and say I did it friendly home conditions. It will be fair and square – we will beat them in a neutral venue.
After winning a home and away series against them, it’s important for us to win in far-away series. Given an opportunity, I would like to beat them in space and the moon too. But then they will put on a mask up there and that will really piss me off. And I might declare my intentions and the innings in a fit of anger.”
Sri Lanka was unable to mask their feelings when they said they were sick of losing to India. “But the money’s good, and we can’t complain really. The BCCI has the Sri Lankan board by the…pardon my French…short and curlies”.
In cricketing circles there is dismay but the Pakistanis aren’t the least bit surprised. A PCB spokesperson just released from house arrest to antagonise somebody or the other said, “They’ve got away with so much against us. The BCCI should be put under house arrest. That will teach them a lesson. They are terrorising world cricket. Like my nation is terrorising…er you get the drift…they can’t be allowed to…which is why I’m saying India should play Pakistan in South Africa, the Future Tours Program will allow it as they know. What’s the use of playing Sri Lanka there, nobody wants to watch them anymore not even their own cricket loving public.”
While some cricket fans are fed up of the frequent face-offs between the two neighbours, statistical sorts are optimistic that playing Sri Lanka will gift Virat Kohli his first triple century and get him past Brian Lara’s 400. Once such commenter was Ashish Kumar Jha who felt that Kohli going past Lara’s record (most double centuries as a captain) was just a stepping stone to a 400-plus score – “I can read the signs. I have read Kohli’s horoscope, the stars are aligned for him to score a 400 plus against Sri Lanka in South Africa.”
Sachin Tendulkar feels that if he had played Sri Lanka more often, neither he nor his fans would’ve had to wait so long for his 100th 100.
(However true this may sound, this is largely a work of fiction)
PS: After the second day’s play in New Delhi, the Sri Lankan team was invited for a private screening of the Jim Carrey starrer, The Mask. The Lankans were not amused and staged a walkout only to hear Pink Floyd’s Breathe blaring from all corners.

First published here

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