TELFORD VICE, Nagpur
GOOD thing Virat Kohli and Dale Steyn are mates, because the Saffer could easily have thought the skipper was dissing him on Tuesday.
“We’ve played him enough times in the past, and we’ve all scored enough runs against him in the past,” Kohli said on the eve of the third test between his Indian team and SA at Jamtha in Nagpur on Wednesday – a match Steyn is likely to miss because of a groin strain.
Kohli and Steyn go back, having shared a dressingroom for Royal Challengers Bangalore for three seasons until Steyn moved to the Deccan Chargers in the 2011 edition of the Indian Premier League. And they will no doubt go forward.
They are only five years apart in age terms and share a penchant for tattoos and what could be called cricket’s answer to the rock star life.
Kohli maintains because a constant presence in the society pages thanks largely to his Bollywood starlet of a girlfriend, and Steyn has gone off on mad tangents like appearing in an Adam Sandler movie.
But Steyn is the pre-eminent purveyor of pace of the age, an opinion that’s widely held and convincingly backed up by the fact that, disregarding rare interruptions, he has been ranked the top test bowler since April 2008.
For all that, Kohli made him sound like a common or garden pie-chucker.
“It doesn’t make a difference if he’s playing or not,” Kohli said. “It doesn’t really matter – it’s eventually a cricket ball coming out of anyone’s hand.
“It’s not the name that we play, it’s a cricket ball that you face and you’ve got to back your abilities to tackle whatever’s thrown at you.
“We share a good friendship and I’ve known him for a long time. But I don’t think that has any relevance to him playing or not playing or me having any reaction to that.”
That kind of thing is easier to say when you are safely out of range of a player who, though he is licenced to kill with a cricket ball, is walking gingerly between appointment with the medics.
“I wanna slap (SA physio Brandon Jackson) so bad right now!” Steyn posted on social media last week as a caption to a photograph of a thigh bristling with three firmly planted acupuncture needles.
And by the look of things SA could well decide that Steyn takes no further part in this series with a view to ensuring his fitness for England’s tour this summer.
So, the chances of Steyn reminding Kohli who is dealing with in the last test in Delhi next month would seem slim.
But perhaps Kohli has some money to put where his mouth is.
Steyn dismissed Australia’s Michael Clarke 10 times in the 26 matches they played against each other at international level in all formats.
How does India’s captain measure up to that standard?
Of the 1031 wickets Steyn has taken at all levels, in all competitions and across all formats, Kohli has been his victim just four times.
In other words, shut up and bowl. If you can, that is.