Pakistan great Saqlain Mushtaq has said he would always advise the England spin duo of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid to treat skipper Virat Kohli like the entire Indian team, saying the prolific batsman alone is like a complete eleven.
Saqlain was associated with the England team as spin consultant till World Cup last year. During that period, he oversaw the rise of England’s spin duo Rashid and Ali, who enjoyed decent success against Kohli. In ODIs, the two spinners dismissed Kohli twice each, while in Tests Rashid has had the better of the Indian star four times compared to Ali’s three. Kohli has also scored plenty of runs against the spinners but the battle has always been a fascinating watch.
“I would just tell them Virat’s wicket is like bowling out the entire Indian team. He is like XI players in one, you have to see him like that. Yeh ek nahin, yeh gyarah hai. (He is not one, he is eleven),” the 43-year-old said in an Instagram Live with sports journalist Nikhil Naz.
“As a bowler you have to be clear in your mind. Yes, they could be facing a world class player who is at the top of his game and does not face any issue against any type of spinner, be it left-arm, offie or a leggie. But I would tell them the ‘pressure is more on him not you, as the whole world is watching him’. You have to be clear in your mind.”
One of the most popular dismissals of Kohli was the one effected by leg-spinner Rashid who cleaned up the Indian captain with a delivery that pitched around leg, turned sharply and uprooted the Indian captain’s off-stump during the Headingley ODI in 2018.
Speaking about his coaching methods, Saqlain said he had named it as “Virat-wala delivery” and would encourage Rashid to consistently practice that during the net session. It helps in imagining scenarios for the bowlers, he said.
“The ball had a lot of drift, it turned sharply and clipped the off-stump after pushing Virat onto the backfoot. I would tell him to bowl Virat-wala delivery so that he keeps producing that at the nets.”
All in the mind
The other aspect of the bowling sessions was to throw your soul into deliveries, the star off-spinner said.
“It’s about putting your soul into the ball. Yes he’s the No 1 player in the world. But if you put your plan, imagination, feeling and passion into the ball, you are no less. As the No 1 batsman, he will have an ego. If you bowl a dot ball to him his ego will get hurt. And if you trap him and get him out, he will be really sad. It’s a mind game, you have to keep your standard high,” Saqlain added.
Saqlain, who has been appointed as Pakistan cricket’s Head of International Player Development, said the English team did its homework well against Kohli.
“We would study all his batting phases – how he starts, builds up and finishes the game – and plan accordingly. I had a lovely time with these boys. Indians are the best against the spinners, so you always look forward to play against them,” Saqlain said.
“Against India, you have to be fully prepared and ready for the long haul. You have to have a strong mind to deal with them.”
Saqlain also said his success with the doosra — the one that spun away — was mainly due to the guidance he received from former Pakistan wicket-keeper Moin Khan.
On how he developed the ace delivery, Saqlain recalled: “During our childhood days there was no ground available near my place so we would play on terrace with table-tennis ball. We would tape it and would bowl all kinds of variations and that’s how I developed doosra.”
“The key is to start doing that from an early age, maybe 13-14 years so you develop a strong grip and technique,” he said.
The Pakistan legend, who played 49 Tests and 169 ODIs, also welcome Anil Kumble’s suggestion that the ban on saliva should encourage teams to try more spinners but felt that the drift on ball would be affected by this decision made in the interim because of coronavirus.
In the interview, he also spoke about the popularity of the phrase “well bowled, Saqi” which used to be heard on the stump mic a lot thanks to Moin Khan, how many Pakistan spinners imitate his action, the dying art of doosra and holding the World Cup in 2019 as part of England’s set-up in 2019.
You can watch the full video here: