Ray Jennings and Virat Kohli are no strangers to each other. The veteran South African coach has now seen Kohli develop into one of the most influential batsmen in world cricket from close quarters during the six seasons of the IPL in the Royal Challengers Bangalore dug-out.
The renowned tough-as-nails coach was also there in Kuala Lumpur in 2008,though in the opposition camp,as a brasher and younger Kohli led his U-19 troops to glory in the junior World Cup.
Over the last 10 days,Jennings has also seen his ward being roughed up by the South African pacers in the ODI series,one where Kohli averaged only 15.50,a rare blight for the otherwise prolific right-hander. But he also agrees that the 25-year-old will be the key for Indias success. Speaking to The Indian Express,Jennings talks about Kohlis failings against the short ball in foreign climes,his mind-set and why he could be Indias man for the crisis. Excerpts
If you were the coach of the side,what would you tell Kohli after his ODI dismissals?
I know Virat is a very moody and confidence type of player. When he is on a high,he is very high. And when he is low,hes very low. So the most important thing for him right now is to get his mind into that confident state,to make sure he feels good about himself. I know Virat likes hitting a lot of balls and making himself feel good. If you see him walk very confidently to the wicket,hes a very destructive player. But he needs to be in that mood.
Do you think he is low after the ODI series?
When you havent scored runs for three innings and you are playing the No.1 side in the world,you are not very confident. Players get built up with performances and things like that. After a few failures,you dont feel bad about yourself but are not confident about your skills. A confident player can deliver his skills while a diffident player tends to hold back and finds it difficult to score runs. Im sure Virat is,may be not worried,but thinking about getting his skills and performances up.
Does he get rattled very easily with pace?
The short ball in India is different to the short ball in South Africa. I can relate it to driving a motorcar. If you drive a car that goes a 100km an hour,and then I put you in one that is going at 170 kph,of course you will be rattled and be troubled till you get used to the car going faster. In South Africa,the wickets are quicker. You are playing on our soil,where the ball swings differently,swings quicker and moves off the wicket quicker. When you compare the bounce,in India you need to put the ball a lot shorter and it lollipops to you. In South Africa,you dont need to pitch it that short. It comes up to you quickly. So its a lot more intense.
Does he have the technique to counter the short ball?
Its going to be quite a difficult test for him. South Africa in South African conditions will try to exploit his weaknesses. When you look at Virat Kohli as a batsman,hes a superb player of spin. If there is any weakness its while facing fast bowling. He will definitely be tested in South Africa,like he has been during the ODIs. He has to rise above that challenge in these conditions. Its a pity that its only two Test matches because if he does well,people will say its only two Tests. If he does badly,theyll say he failed. Thats unfortunately the issue.
Hes been out caught behind on eight of 14 occasions abroad,mostly trying to drive on the up.
That depends on how long hes ready to spend on the wicket and get used to the pace. India has the slowest wickets in the world and South Africa has probably the quickest wickets. I have seen one or two weaknesses crop up in the last three innings. Im sure hes good enough and Duncan Fletcher is smart enough to rectify those issues. In South Africa,when you see the ball moving around,your mind starts running away from its focus. One of the key things is the state of mind and how you apply your skills. For example,if you are scared,you will be looking to go on the back-foot. He needs to consider whether hes better off playing on the front-foot or back-foot.
Do you see Virat fitting into the No.4 spot well?
I think its ideal for him. Hes an emerging top player in the world. And No.4 will be suitable to his type of style. I think Pujara is a key too along with Dhoni. In South Africa,the Indian bowling needs to step up a little bit to level the playing field. Because if the South Africans prepare green wickets,they will exploit the Indian batting. The Indian bowlers need to step up and do the same.
Do you see the Indians lifting themselves for the Tests?
I think its a type of tour where you needed to come here two or three weeks before. Like they went to Australia two weeks earlier to get acclimatized. As an Indian group of players they should have planned a little better,if they consistently want to perform. So youve had three ODIs. They will get better and better but by the time they are really good,the series might be finished.