Relishing going head-to-head with Kohli: Paine

Melbourne: Australia skipper Tim Paine said Monday he is ‘relishing going head-to-head’ with his Indian counterpart Virat Kohli in a Test series and looked forward to ‘intense, hard’ cricket in the Boxing Day
game at Melbourne.

The pair had heated exchanges in the second Test at Perth, prompting the umpire to intervene. Australia won the game to level the four-match series at 1-1. Paine said he understands that Kohli never liked to lose. “A lot was made of my battle with Virat in the second Test, and for the past few years when I haven’t been playing international cricket, he was one guy I loved watching,” he said in a column for ‘Herald Sun’. “Now to be out in the middle going head-to-head with him in a Test series is something I’m really relishing.”

Paine said he was not annoyed ‘in the slightest’ by Kohli. “Virat is someone who is prepared to wear his heart on his sleeve and like all professional athletes, hates to lose,’ he said. ‘I like the way Virat plays. I don’t know him personally but I’ve always admired — not only his obvious skill as a player — but the passion and aggression he plays with. People like to see that and he gets fans through the gates.”

Meanwhile, Australian coach Justin Langer said allrounder Mitch Marsh is ‘an attractive commodity’ and remains in contention for a return to the Boxing Day Test because of the MCG pitch. “In a perfectly balanced side you’ll have someone who can bowl some overs so Mitch becomes an attractive commodity on a wicket probably unlike Adelaide and Perth.”

Australian pace spearhead Mitchell Starc has described Virat Kohli as a “fantastic captain”, having shared the dressing room with the India captain while representing Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League.
Kohli’s on-field heated exchanges with Australia skipper Tim Paine in the second Test turned out to be a subject of discussion with many former players, including Mitchell Johnson, criticising the batting maestro’s behaviour. However, Starc backed Kohli. “I’ve played a couple of IPLs with Virat and he’s been fantastic to play under, as a captain,” Starc told reporters.

“Obviously, he’s a fantastic player. The way India play this series and go about their cricket, it’s up to them.’ Starc, who was bought by Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2014, had emerged as a key bowler for the IPL team. He parted ways with Bangalore in February last year before being picked by Kolkata Knight Riders early this year.

Starc, though, was ruled out of the 2018 IPL season due to injury and was released from KKR last month. On Sunday, Indian coach Ravi Shastri called ‘an absolute gentleman’, while former Australian opener Matthew Hayden suggested Kohli was more Australian than Indian in many ways.