Kohli advocates 'sustained momentum'

A ground as large as the MCG calls for a batting line-up to not just rely on their power hitting, according to Virat Kohli

Sustained momentum, Virat Kohli said. He was talking about how it was crucial to bat at a high tempo throughout the innings at grounds such as the MCG where the large boundaries make it difficult for power-hitting to come off at the death. Sustained momentum worked for India against Pakistan. It worked for them against South Africa in the Champions Trophy, the last time the two sides met in a world event. It is what they will try to achieve against the same opponents in their second World Cup game on Sunday.
"I think in Melbourne we have seen that sustained momentum throughout the innings has probably been the successful way," Kohli said. "Teams that have tried to slug it out in the last 10 usually don't end up pulling off that many runs, especially teams that are not familiar to these conditions, because there's more bounce, the boundaries are bigger, so it's not that easy to clear boundaries on a regular basis."
India lost five wickets for 27 against Pakistan in the last five overs in Adelaide. They were 185 for 4 in 35 overs against Australia at the MCG in the one-day tri-series a month ago. They managed 4 for 82 off the last 15 overs. No one apart from centurion Rohit Sharma could manage a six in the innings.
MS Dhoni made 19 off 31 deliveries at No. 6 and later said he had to be more watchful than usual in the absence of Ravindra Jadeja's hitting ability down the order. Having recovered from a shoulder injury, Jadeja is available now, but was out for 3 off 5 in the 49th over in the Pakistan game. He was second in the nets after Shikhar Dhawan on Friday at Junction Oval for a long batting stint. R Ashwin also struck some powerful punches, as India sought to get their lower-order in good batting shape.
Dhoni has also said that teams are resorting to bowling back of a length in the tournament and challenging batsmen with the buffer of longer boundaries. In the lead-up to this game, India have practiced with a focus on that length.
India were able to touch the 300-mark against Pakistan despite the late collapse because of the platform the top order had given them, although they looked good for 330 at one stage. Their opponents then started steadily, but crumbled under the pressure of a tall chase in an India-Pakistan match. There will be no such pressure on the South Africans. Not only does that make it important for India's batsmen to finish better than they did against Pakistan, it also calls on the top order to set up the game again.
Which is where the size of the MCG outfield factors in again. The square boundaries are especially long, unlike Adelaide Oval. India's top-order batsmen love to play their cover drives and square cuts and back-foot punches. Those strokes come naturally to them and are used as reliable methods to collect runs, especially under fielding restrictions against the new balls. On other venues, once you clear the infield with decent timing, you do not have to bother running. Such strokes might bring only two, or three at best, at the MCG. Doing that against Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander regularly will be still harder.
Kohli was clear that the India batsmen would have to adapt on Sunday, drawing on their experience of having played at the MCG as recently as January. "You have to hit angles, you have to hit gaps, you have to run hard, and you have to place the ball more than power the ball over the boundary. It will be a calculated approach towards our batting, and we'll have to make some changes according to how big the field is. All the guys have played on this ground, and I'm sure they are thinking about it."

Abhishek Purohit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo