AUSTRALIA TOUR OF INDIA, 2017
Happy with the No.1 ranking but main challenge begins now: Kohli
Cricbuzz Staff • Last updated on Tue, 28 Mar, 2017, 05:50 PM
Kohli was pleased with the way Rahane led the team. © BCCI
Indian captain Virat Kohli addressed the media on Tuesday (March 28) in Dharamsala after his side completed a 2-1 series win over Australia. He praised his teammates and the support staff following India’s dominant performances in the home season. Excerpts from the press conference:
13 matches, 10 wins, A lookback at the season to team and support staff:
It is a very proud moment. Playing good cricket all season, especially in the home season we dominated all of it. It was very important for a young side to do so and build a team for the future. So that we can give such performances consistently. That we did in this whole season and it was important how we responded to difficult situations. Support staff, management and everyone else was working hard on this aspect, so that in difficult moments and situations, we would be able to counter and come back in those moments. The credit goes to all of them, support staff role is not highlighted much but their contribution is nearly 40 percent, 60 for the team, because they handle the players’ mindset and their skills and working hard with them, giving good feedback to them, so these are important things. So this is a team effort, rather this is a squad effort because it involves everyone. Credit goes to everyone in this squad.
Finest hour as captain? Not as happy?
It has nothing to do with that. It is a classic case of understanding that this is not the end of anything. No need to get over excited with whatever we have done. We are very happy with no.1 ranking in the world, but our main challenge begins now. If we can conquer the overseas season, that’s when you will see a broader smile on my face when I sit down for the press conference. To understand where we are placed and the kind of cricket we have played, and where we stand as individuals at the end of season, it makes me very happy as a captain.
Pacers performances? Planned for future, overseas tours?
For sure, it is a very important aspect of our side. We have worked hard on the fitness levels of the guys over the past two years and it’s showing. When teams prepare only for your spinners and our fast bowlers come in and bowl those kind of spells, it can really shake the opposition and that’s exactly what these guys have been able to do. Important breakthroughs and main players most of the times, getting us those important breakthroughs after partnerships. Seizing the momentum for the team has been outstanding on part of the fast bowlers. I just wouldn’t say Shami and Umesh but Bhuvi given the opportunities has picked up five-fors. Ishant has been outstanding in West Indies, in Sri Lanka, whenever he has played as well. That’s probably been the one factor that has been the difference in our winning all these series compared to drawing a few or drawing a few games. We have been able to win more games than we have drawn or lost. That’s been probably one of the important factors in that.
No. 1 in West Indies, and how look at it now after all these games?
Ya, because it happened in a flash and we were just one point away from Pakistan at the second spot. That’s why I wasn’t too excited about it because it was a short term thing. But now I can sit down and be proud of what the guys have been able to achieve since then and different aspects have come up – lower-order contributions, spinners have been outstanding throughout, fast bowlers have been brilliant, the batsmen have stepped up on many occasions. Different people. Not just one or two guys, but everyone has contributed throughout the season. If you don’t have a team performance, you can’t be the No. 1 team in the world. As simple as that. If you want to win more Test games, you have to have complete team performances. It’s the main reason why we are sitting here as the No. 1 team in the world and we have quite a fair distance above the other teams. That makes me very proud as a captain and all the guys in the change room are very happy with what they have been able to achieve and ending the season on a high.
Plans for this series?
Nothing different from what we have done in the past. The focus was obviously to maintain our skills, our momentum that we gained throughout the season and execute that. I mentioned in the post match, credit to Australia, the way they have played in this series. They have really challenged us really hard and it tested the guys’ character to bounce back from difficult situations many a time. Specially Jinks, the way he captained in this game was really pleasing to see because it has just been four Test matches since he has come back from his injury and to step up, show that character and lead the side to a win, hats off to him as well. He has really taken the responsibility well and I was really, really happy to see him doing that. He was also very delighted to be taking that responsibility for the team. These kinds of series, these kind of matches, they build character for the guys. They become more individuals very sure of themselves, their games. And when you have 7-8 people in the side who are that sure of their abilities and their mindset, then you become a champion side and you keep that going for a long period of time. Nothing different from what we have done in the past, it was very similar but the resistance from the opposition was a lot more compared to the last few series that we have played. Credit goes to the way they played their cricket as well.
On playing Kuldeep
I spoke to Jinks before the game and he asked me what I feel. I said, this is your game, you have to be comfortable with playing four or five bowlers. He instantly said five bowlers because he understands the workloads of the guys throughout the whole season and to keep pushing two guys to take wickets for you regularly is unfair when the body is tired and it has taken a toll. So that fifth bowler, that was Anil bhai and Jinks and myself, we all had a discussion. Kuldeep was the X factor, they hand;t played him, they hadn’t see him much and he turned out to the difference in the game. I think from 130/1 to 300 all out in the same day can really demoralise the opposition. And I think it was a great call on Jinx and Anil Bhai’s part. Credit to him, he went in with five bowlers and the batsmen took up the responsibility as well. To win Test matches, you need some courage before you start, to take that little bit of risk and play five batsmen, which we done throughout the season on most occasions. It takes more responsibility out of you but that is what it is required of you playing at this level and it was his and Anil bhai’s decision eventually to go in with five bowlers and it was the right one in the end.
On what has changed for Umesh since 2014. Is he the best paceman since Zaheer?
I would put him and Shami together, at par. On pure pace, striking ability and making dents in the game, he would be at par with Shami. Obviously, you can’t compare them to Zak yet because Zak had done it for a longer period of time. But from 2014 to now, Umesh Yadav the only thing that has changed in him is his mindset. He was always a very fit guy, he probably used to bowl even quicker than he is now, but he has understood his game, become smarter. He used to bowl 145kmph regularly, now he is touching 140kmph now at odd times but he is very smart with what he wants to bowl in spells. That has been a really, really big difference in his game. Obviously when guys give confidence saying you are my strike bowler, they respond in that way. Then they are not thinking about getting hit for runs or any of that sort. It is a give and take, it takes a combination of lot of things, but 80% of the credit is Umesh’s for the way he has gone out there and executed it. You can take in all the advice but you have to go out there and do it eventually. Credit to him, the way he has taken his game to the next level, I am really happy for him.
On missing a Test after so many matches, sitting outside?
Well, I jerked my shoulder four times yesterday celebrating outside. So that’s how much energy I had and I couldn’t sit in the change room. So it is not nice. I don’t know how many Test matches I’ve played in a row (54), so if it was a strain injury it would have been different, but impact injury really gave me no options. And to start a game at 50% was not fair on the team. That’s the kind of person I have always been and I’ll continue to be. But yes it was difficult watching from the outside when you have been in the thick of things all the time for past so many years and seasons. But the most pleasing thing is when you see guys taking the responsibility in your absence and actually going out there to play one of the best ever Test matches that as a viewer you can see. I would call myself a viewer out there. I really enjoyed it. It was not easy to not play this game, but at the end of the day sitting here and having won the series, I have no complaints.
Five batsmen, responsibility on top 3
Well, massive. That’s very very important. Obviously Pujara has been very impressive in this series. But Vijay has been a consistent opener for a while. To look at KL, the way he has played in this series, he’s probably not in focus too much, but to get six 50-plus scores, for an opener to be that consistent is tremendous. He’ll want to convert them into big runs but the impact he has had in this series, not giving early wickets to Australia, has been very very pleasing. I’ve seen him from RCB, he had a great season for India and then he got injured. He was very down in that phase, he was really upset that he got injured at the wrong time. He had a good innings and then a few bad innings and then comes out and has a brilliant series, a big one. As I said these kind of series can build character and make individuals. This is one of those instances for KL. You’ll certainly remember him for a long time in years to come with the innings he will play. I think this is where he will make a start as an international recognised opener, probably one of the best openers India has had.
What made Australia the toughest opposition?
“I think they had the belief of making things happen in these conditions, that’s something that I sensed in their body language and the way they played their cricket. They believed they could win sessions and win situations and that was the most important thing, and the most challenging thing for us. Whereas teams really lose their morale once they lose a Test match in India, but they kept bouncing back and they had the desire to compete throughout. That’s why they are the number two side in the world. You expect that from Australia, once they get a sniff they put you under pressure. But the way we responded, I’m really proud of that as well. I would say their relentlessness and their desire to make things happen in these conditions was probably the reason why they kept giving us a great fight to the end of this Test match. So a lot of credit goes to them.”
Areas to improve
Our main focus was to build the fast bowling group, not for overseas conditions but to understand the importance of the breakthroughs they can give in the home season as well. Few of the guys have told me that the kind of fast bowling bunch that we have now gives a good chance to go outside India and put in good performances. I’m certainly very sure and positive about the fact that these guys can deliver away from home and give you machining performances. The fitness levels have gone up and relentlessness of their bowling, the consistency, has improved, and there is a lot more desire in all the guys to make things happen and be persistent for a long time. That’s something they have built, the credit goes to them completely. I’m sure they will be able to sustain this for longer periods when we go overseas, and not let the game drift away. Pretty excited about what lies ahead for us as a team.