Former England skipper Nasser Hussain said Indian captain Virat Kohli will do everything in his power to topple Joe Root and Co. in the ongoing five-match series. The 53-year-old feels that India now won't get bullied even if England try to fight fire with fire. England managed to escape with a draw in the first Test but were outclassed by India on day five of the second Test at Lord's, giving them a 1-0 lead in the series.
"Virat Kohli is the right man at the right time to lead this formidable India side. His players, in particular the bowlers, want an aggressive captain. They want Kohli stirring things up, as he did so effectively in that brilliant second Test at Lord's. Jasprit Bumrah has always seemed, to me a quiet and reserved character off the field, but look at the way he attacked and went after Jimmy Anderson on that third evening," Hussain wrote in his column for the Daily Mail.
"We saw India winning that way in Australia when Kohli went home to be at the birth of his first child after the first Test. They won then with Ajinkya Rahane in charge but it was Kohli who set the tone for that famous series victory and he's doing it again now.
"This India are not a side who will be bullied, as perhaps previous generations have been. They wouldn't allow themselves to be bullied by Aussie players or crowds — when Tim Paine said, "Wait until we get you to the Gabba", it just spurred them on. And nothing England can do will bully them now even if Chris Silverwood has said he will fight Indian fire with fire for the rest of this series.
"Kohli's aggression is aimed at winding up the opposition and he gets under the skin of every team he plays against. I'm sure most don't particularly like playing against him and English supporters won't particularly like him but he won't care a jot about that. I remember speaking to Duncan Fletcher about Kohli when he was India coach and he just told me he was a winner. At almost any cost, too."
Hussain said Kohli makes sure that India don't get push around and gets that much-needed support from the likes of Ravi Shastri, Rohit Sharma and Rahane. "Yes, he can push the line. At times it doesn't look great but, as I said last week, I like to see passion and controlled aggression from cricketers.
"What Kohli in particular represents is modern-day India, the one that won't be pushed around. Even though umpires might like to remind him occasionally that he doesn't run the game. Ravi Shastri, as coach, will just let Kohli go. He won't mind seeing him exchanging words with Anderson or signalling from the balcony to try to get the players off for bad light. It is the captain who is very much in charge.
"More significant, perhaps, are the senior players Kohli has beside him. Rohit Sharma was right there when he was complaining about the light, and both he and Rahane are integral to the tactics of India. Rohit might come across as a calm, slow heartbeat sort of guy but he is very driven to succeed too."
Kohli has led the side well so far in the series but is yet to fire with the bat. The right-hander got scores 42 and 20 in the second Test but was dismissed in a similar fashion like he did in the first Test and the entire 2014 tour, nicking deliveries way outside off. The 32-year-old has scored 407 runs in his last 10 Tests at an average of just 23.94.
"You could argue that Kohli is putting so much into the captaincy of India now in his pursuit of a first Test series win in England as skipper that it has taken something away from his batting. He seems vulnerable again outside off-stump, as he was when he played here in 2014. Certainly he got out after a nothing shot to a wide ball from Sam Curran at Lord's and the Kohli of the 2018 tour would have left that.
"But he knows how much it will mean to India to win this series. And he will judge himself on the results of the next three Tests rather than the runs he scores. He'd certainly be gutted if he scored centuries at Leeds and the Oval but lost the series anyway."
England are without the likes of Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad but Hussain feels that the hosts could still make a comeback. "There are still vulnerabilities in this India side and that's what England have to remember at Headingley. Look at the India batting line-up. Rishabh Pant can be a destructive batsman but he doesn't always come off and looks a place too high to me at six in English conditions against the Dukes ball. The same goes for Ravindra Jadeja at seven.
"And, whatever they did at Lord's, India do still have a long tail. That's what made me so cross about that last morning when England lost the plot against that tail and it eventually cost them a Test they could easily have won. So it's not done and dusted just yet. I think we can expect a different type of cricket at Headingley. I don't know if the Test pitch will be different but it has been very flat there this season and last year. I expect more runs from both sides.
"That's why if I were Joe Root and Silverwood I would pick my strongest bowling line-up available. But in Kohli England will be up against a leader who will do everything in his power to win this series now. And that makes it a very difficult task for England over the next three or four weeks."