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‘Can you just zip your mouth & bat?’ – The Kohli-Kesrick banter that extended across three T20Is

Kohli Kesrick
by Wisden Staff 4-minute read

West Indies quick Kesrick Williams, in an interview with Firstpost, has detailed an episode of fervid on-field banter with India’s Virat Kohli that extended across three matches in 2019.

Williams, popular for bringing out his trademark “notebook” celebration after a wicket, narrated the series of events that unfolded during the T20I series between the two sides in 2019, when Kohli re-enacted Williams’s celebration after hitting him for a six.

In the first game, when Kohli walked in to bat,” Kesrick said, “he walked in straight to me and he was like, ‘Hey, you got me in Jamaica the last time you bowled against me, it’s not going to happen here’. I was like this thing happened in 2017, this is 2019, this guy really studied this thing? I was like I can’t believe this guy.

“So I bowled a ball, someone tucked it on to the leg side and I was running for the ball but he was running for a single and I almost butt on him. So I stopped and let him pass, and then he looked at the umpire, and was like, ‘What’s going on?’. I am like, ‘Mate, I am sorry I didn’t spitefully do it, I didn’t try to run into you.’ And from there he started. He started saying stuff that I really don’t want to repeat.

“He started saying all sorts (of things), I am, like ‘Yo mate, can you just back (off)’. I was walking back and he was at the non-striker’s end and he’s like, ‘This is not going to happen today, I am not going to make you get me out today, never, never you are going to get me out today’. I am like, ‘Mate, can you just zip your mouth and bat? Just bat, just play the game and please leave me alone’. And he said some stuff.”

Kohli went on to score a 50-ball 94, his career-best T20I score in India’s 208-run chase, with Williams being carted for 60 runs in 3.4 overs. The banter extended into the second game of the series, with Kohli apparently trying to get under the bowler’s skin.

In the second game, I was on the fine leg boundary and he’s sitting there, just staring at me and was like ‘Kesericcccc’. I mean obviously he beat me in the last game so he can do what he wants, he is on top … ‘Kesriccc’ [again], I am like I can’t wait for this guy to come and bat. A wicket falls, and I am like, ‘I am really ready for this guy to come in, because I want to get this guy out so badly tonight. I am confident enough that I will get him out.”

Kesrick ended up picking Kohli’s wicket in the game. Having been on the receiving end of a verbal battle, Kesrick decided to give it back to the Indian captain in the third T20I, the series decider.

The third game now, I am warming up. And the skipper [Kieron Pollard] was like, Kohli’s really staring [at] me there. And I’ll be honest, every ball I bowl, every step I make … He is warming up with his team and his eyes are fixed on me. He came into bat, I think I got Rohit, I did that (welcome) gesture and looked at him and said come. He looked at me and started chirping. I was confident then, I got him out in the last game.

“He didn’t score a lot of runs off me, it was just singles. And then in the last over, I felt like I haven’t bowled much slower balls to him in this game, now I am going to try to get him out again with a couple of balls left of my last over. And he walked into it and flicked me over mid-wicket for a six. He looked at me and was acting like, ‘Yo, I beat you again.’ I am like, dude, I went for 35-2 in the game (1-37) and you hit one six off me and acting big and macho. And then Pollard was like, ‘Yo, don’t give him that energy, leave him alone, go back’.

“I walked back and was like, ‘Mate, try and beat me’. I am confident now. At that point when I went for 60 in that first game, he acted all sorts.”

Kohli ended with a blazing 29-ball 70, helping India to a massive 240-3 in 20 overs, which eventually sealed the series for them.

Kesrick admits he’s looking forward to the next battle with Kohli, promising a new celebration when he dismisses the India captain next time. “I don’t have anything against him,” Kesrick said. “It’s just banter. Because honestly, that guy is one of the best players in world cricket.”

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