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AUSTRALIA V INDIA TESTS

Maxwell won't risk riling his mate Kohli

15 February 2017

Friends off the field but Maxwell says Kohli only a slice of bad luck away from dip in form

There's few members of Australia's current Test squad with a deeper knowledge of what makes India's red-hot skipper Virat Kohli tick than Glenn Maxwell.

And the Victorian allrounder is in no doubt as to whether it's wise to provoke the in-form India batter with verbal volleys in the hope that it might rile Kohli to the point that he loses focus and concentration.

Former Test batter Michael Hussey has already cautioned Australia's players against baiting the famously volatile Kohli, for fear of firing him into action.

Quick Single: Hussey warns Aussies not to sledge Kohli

While current skipper Steve Smith told a media conference in Mumbai yesterday ahead of his team's four-Test Qantas Tour of India that any decision on whether to hurl barbs or banter at the opposition will rest with individual players.

If they feel it might deliver an advantage, then they are free to engage in on-field jousting provided it does not stray into Code of Conduct territory.

But Maxwell understands clearly which side of the line he stands in the Kohli debate.

"I'm probably not going to say anything to him, that's for sure," said Maxwell, who has been a regular rival to Kohli throughout their time in the Indian Premier League and in 21 international meetings across all formats.

"Virat is up and down, I suppose, with sledging.

"If you (strike) a chord with him, or something gets him agitated to play a big shot, then blokes are more than welcome to go for it.

"But at the moment, there's not much agitating him.

Smith talks Kohli verbals on Mumbai arrival

"I think Steve (Smith, Australia captain) said it perfectly in the press conference yesterday – the guys that want to get involved verbally, if that gets the best out of them then go for it."

Maxwell and Kohli share a close bond, as shown during last year's limited-overs series between Australia and India when the pair sat down for an extended, exclusive chat as part of one of Maxwell's regular blogs for cricket.com.au.

Quick Single: Maxi and Kohli's riveting chat

They have been rivals in recent years of the IPL with Kohli representing  Bangalore Royal Challengers (where he played alongside Australia fast bowler Mitchell Starc), while Maxwell has been part of the King's XI Punjab franchise.

The pair have also lined up as opponents 21 times in the international arena, with Maxwell claiming Kohli's wicket with his off-spin during Australia's previous Test tour to India in 2013.

But the top-order batter that Australia encountered in that forgettable 4-0 Test series loss was but a pre-emptive warning of the powerhouse who has been since installed as India's Test captain and has lodged a substantive claim to being the world's best Test batsman of the moment.

Kohli punishes Bangladesh with another double-ton

A title currently held by Smith, as per the ICC's official Test rankings that show Kohli at number two and England's newly installed captain Joe Root at three.

Kohli's recent form makes it difficult to refute that claim, given that last week (against Bangladesh) he became the first player in almost 140 years of Test cricket to score double centuries in four consecutive Test series.

Maxwell claims there is no definitive technical skill or secret weapon that has carried Kohli to such lofty results, and believes Australia's best hopes of quelling his influence might well rest on the vicissitudes that are an essential intangible of professional sport.

I won't be saying anything: Maxwell

"I don't think it's anything particular as far as technique or anything like that, I just think he's so on top of his game at the moment," Maxwell said of Kohli prior to the Australia squad conducting their first training session of their two-month tour at the Cricket Club of India ground in Mumbai.

"Guys can go through a run of form like that where they just get on a roll and everything seems to click for them, and that's happened for him at the moment.

"The thing with that is it can take only one bit of bad luck or an unfortunate dismissal where he's run out or something, and that can sometimes trigger a little bit of indecision or doubt.

"So hopefully in the first couple of Tests we can create that doubt and get him wondering about his technique.

"We've obviously been watching him play over the last few months and just admired the way that he's gone about it.

"He's been extremely consistent and he's gone on to score big hundreds, which is something he didn't do very much in the early part of his career but now he's making big double-hundreds and really winning the game for India."

Maxwell also downplayed the value that might come from the number of members of Australia's 16-man touring party who have gained significant recent experience in Indian conditions through their involvement in the IPL.

Highlights: Australia intra-squad match, day two

In addition to Smith, Maxwell and Starc who have been regular IPL participants over recent years, vice-captain David Warner, and brothers Shaun and Mitchell Marsh have all been high-profile players in the world's most lucrative T20 franchise tournament.

But while the exposure to India conditions and culture gained through that connection means the subcontinent is no longer the enduring mystery that it was to so many previous Australia touring teams, the hard and flat pitches on which the T20 matches are played are likely to bear little resemblance to the Test strips.

Especially at Pune (where the first Test starts on February 23), Ranchi (third Test) and Dharamsala (fourth) which are yet to play host to Test cricket, with Bengaluru the only venue on this Qantas Tour to have been previously used for a five-day international match.

As a result, Maxwell believes the greatest benefit the squad's combined IPL experience might deliver will be in dealing with the fanatical, voluble India crowds and the increased familiarity with the life that celebrity cricketers endure in a country that hero worships the game's stars.

IPL makes friends of international foes: Kohli

"There's a couple of wickets that you play on in the IPL that do spin a bit, but that's the only comparison I can make (to what is expected for Test match pitches)," Maxwell said today.

"You might get two or three wickets in the IPL that might do a fair bit, but the rest of them are pretty good wickets.

"The (similar) training conditions are probably something you get out of the IPL.

"The practice wickets are probably more similar to what you're going to face in the Test matches over here, with a bit of wear and tear and the variable bounce.

"But having those (IPL experienced) guys in our squad is only going to help, having played in front of those crowds.

"And with three of the four venues having their first Test and we've played IPL games here, I think that's probably going to help us as well."

"That (crowds) is probably the closest similarity (to Test match environment), I suppose.

"The crowds are very vocal, they're screaming the whole time and they're very passionate about their cricket.

"It's a great place to play and it's going to be amazing for the guys that haven't experienced an Indian crowd before to play in front of that because it's one of the best things that I've ever had the privilege of doing.

"Playing in front of an Indian crowd and feeling their energy out of the stands, that's something I really enjoy doing every time I come over here."

Test Squads

India (for first two Tests): Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandaran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Karun Nair, Jayant Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Abhinav Mukund, Hardik Pandya.

Australia: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Stephen O'Keefe, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade

Australia's schedule in India

Feb 17-19, Tour match v India A, Mumbai

Feb 23-27, First Test, Pune


Mar 4-8, Second Test, Bengaluru


Mar 16-20, Third Test, Ranchi

Mar 25-29, Fourth Test, Dharamsala

About the Writer

 @ARamseyCricket
@ARamseyCricket

Andrew Ramsey is the senior writer for cricket.com.au. He previously wrote for the Guardian, The Australian, The Times, The Telegraph, The Hindu and Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and the author of The Wrong Line.

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