Rajasthan Royals mentor Shane Warne is enjoying the intensity and chaos of the Indian Premier League (IPL) again and having watched the cream of Indian cricket make a splash in the ongoing edition, Warne is convinced that India is the team to beat in world cricket today.
“They have an all round team with all bases covered. Usually when India used to come to Australia in the past when I was playing, they would struggle on those fast, bouncy pitches. Their fast bowling was ok but not as good as their spin. Now we are seeing some of their fast bowlers are as good as any in the world. So on those fast and bouncy pitches, Virat (Kohli) does not have to concentrate on just spin, they also have some excellent fast bowlers. When things are not happening, they have got reverse swing, pace, they can use short ball and they have their spin and their batting.
They are a proven side. I think India for the first time especially with no (Steve) Smith and (David) Warner will go in as favourites in a long time, if not ever against Australia, later in the year,” Warne tells India Today in an exclusive.
Like a lot of other experts, Warne’s applause for Indian cricket stems from captain Kohli’s brilliance and go-getter attitude. Steve Waugh had called the 2001 Test series against India their final frontier and Kohli might want to say that about the upcoming Test series against England. Warne predicts, Kohli will come up a winner.
“India face England first; perhaps the only place which Virat hasn’t yet nailed. And I think he will nail England this year. I think Virat will have an unbelievable series in England which will hold him in good stead in Australia also. He played beautifully in Australia in the last tour. His knock at Adelaide was nearly match winning. Jeez! He played well. I love to see Virat Kohli play,” he says effusive in praise of the Indian captain.
“Virat and AB de Villiers are the two standout batsmen in all formats. I would throw Smith in there in Test cricket. Watching Virat play in England and then on the fast bouncy pitches in Australia is what I am looking forward to,” he added.
Warne’s battles with Sachin Tendulkar were a stuff of legend; some that he won and in quite a few of them where he finished second best. Does he think Kohli is in the Tendulkar league?
“I think the way Virat plays and you look at his numbers and it’s uncanny how many times he has got hundreds in ODI cricket chasing totals down. I don’t think anyone, not even Sachin could do what Virat’s done. We know Sachin and Brian Lara were the two best players of all time in our generation. But Virat and AB de Villiers; it’s very difficult to separate those guys. Virat is as good as anyone that I have seen play the game. Wonderful, terrific player, I love his energy and passion. I am sure when he finishes in ten years or so he will be spoken about in the same breath as Sachin,” he remarked.
“It’s a one off Test against Afghanistan and you should always try to play a Test match as much as you can. But I think it’s a brave and courageous decision from Virat and shows how important the England series is for him and his team. He hasn’t nailed England before; Jimmy Anderson has had his number. So I don’t mind Virat missing this one off-Test match. If it was a series, the captain should be there. I am also very happy that Rahane is captaining that Test side. It’s fantastic for Jinx and I am happy and proud for him,” he said.
Warne argues those critical of Virat are missing the point. “It actually shows how much he values Test cricket. You can talk about him not playing this one but he is valuing Test cricket by playing first-class cricket in those conditions before the England series which says a lot. I love the bravery and courage he has to play county cricket to prepare for the England series. I think that shows how important it is for him and it’s a great decision from him,” he opined.