Australia missing Steve Smith, David Warner not ideal but still have world-class players, says Virat Kohli

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Skipper Virat Kohli with former Australia player Adam Gilchrist. (Source: Twitter/BCCI)

Australia will come into the series against India without experienced Steve Smith and David Warner – both of whom are serving bans for ball tampering and didn’t get the reprieve they sought from Cricket Australia – but that doesn’t make them formidable, feels Virat Kohli. In their absence, Australia have struggled in limited overs cricket, winning just four of 11 Twenty20 Internationals and losing all but one of eight one-day internationals.

Kohli acknowledged the situation is not ideal for Australia but reasoned they still have world class cricketers in their squad who can do damage. “There’s no denying the quality they have in their side. They still have world-class cricketers. Obviously missing out on two of their best batsmen is not ideal for any team, but even then they have guys, especially in the limited-overs game, who can do damage at any given point of time,” said Kohli on the eve of the first T20I at The Gabba in Brisbane.

“You can never underestimate any side. We’ve come here to compete against Australia, the whole team, and we will definitely not take anything for granted.”

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Australia skipper Aaron Finch stated in his press briefing that India had very few issues in limited overs cricket. When asked about his thoughts, Kohli said, “We definitely have a very strong side. I don’t think there’s any side in world cricket that doesn’t have any weaknesses or (don’t have) points that they need to keep working on. We as a side keep striving forward to figure out what we need to work on and take our quality of cricket up.”

“If we are playing at our best possible level, then try and maintain it for as long as possible. That’s why our level of cricket has gone up. And we have been able to maintain it because when we step on to the field, we are 11 individuals who are striving for excellence and be the best on that particular day. That’s when the performances come together and it looks lovely as a team.”

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Besides a strong batting setup, India also hold a strong bowling unit with spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav and a solid fast-bowling attack led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, two of the best white-ball pacers in the world. “You think about giving the others a go at the start of a series, but then again you feel that the first few games are important, and then if the other side wins a game or two, you still go and bank on Bhuvi and Bumrah,” said Kohli, explaining how opportunities for the other pacers might be rare.

“The reason why they are so good is that they are thinking bowlers, they understand the situation and they have a gut feel of what a batsman is looking to do. The ability to predict what’s going to happen each ball keeps them one step ahead most of the time. Sometimes they will get dominated like everyone does, but 85-90 per cent of the time, they are spot on. Any captain would love to have both of them in their bowling attack. I’ve been lucky to have both of them bowling so well,” added Kohli.

‘Minimise mistakes, heed details’

Away from the limited overs cricket, India have issues in Test matches – especially when travelling. Currently the top Test team, India have not lost a home series since 2012 but have struggled outside the sub-continent, beaten 2-1 in South Africa and 4-1 in England earlier this year. “We don’t want to be a team that wins one odd Test match here and there,” Kohli said on Tuesday. “We have figured out our mistakes in England which, I have mentioned before, were very radical.”

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“The quality of cricket was very high but our mistakes were as radical and that’s why we lost the games. We won the game in which we committed fewer mistakes. We were at par with the other team throughout. I think we have the ability to keep competing with the other team and in test cricket whichever team makes fewer mistakes wins the game. That’s the general rule.”

Last time India travelled to Australia, the visitors lost 2-0 and Kohli felt India would need to be at their best to succeed. “We played good cricket last time but we were not able to win games, so this time around we obviously want to change that,” he said.

“We definitely believe we have the quality to do so but it will boil down to how we think in each moment in every test match that we play or every game that we play on this tour.

“As a whole, throughout the tour we want to do the little things right and have our focus really precise so that we can win more situations than the opposition.”