Virat Kohli reiterated the fact that Rohit Sharma was taken into the team that played the first Test against South Africa on the basis of “current form.” He also made clear that the possibility of Ajinkya Rahane rediscovering his place in the team remains open. “I explained the reasons why Rohit Sharma started ahead of him. I am not saying that Ajinkya cannot or will not start in this game. Possibilities are all open at the moment and we shall decide after practice,” said the Indian captain in a press conference ahead of the second Test at Centurion, “He (Rahane) is a quality player. He has done well in South Africa, in all conditions actually away from home. He is probably been our most consistent and solid player away from home.”
India’s batsmen struggled against the bounce generated by the pace quartet of Vernon Phllander, Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn and Kohli said that it will be important that they don’t get surprised by the bounce in the second Test. “We must not get surprised by the bounce here,” said Kohli, “We have to maintain composure when you get sudden change of bounce, which you experience in South Africa. Here the bounce can be steep from length also. You need to mentally tune yourself to these things and accept that it is going to be a major part of batting in South Africa.”
Ajinkya Rahane’s omission from the Indian squad that played the first Test against South Africa in Cape Town caught a lot by surprise. Although Rahane’s form has been questionable in recent matches, his average away from home meant that he was expected to play ahead of Rohit Sharma. But Kohli went for the opposite, getting Rohit in on the basis of his “current form” and leaving out Rahane. But Kohli took a dig at those criticising his decision to not include Rahane.
“It’s funny how things change in a matter of weeks, or just about five days. Before the first Test no-one thought that he should be in the eleven and now suddenly people are looking at the other option,” he said, “For us as a team, it’s all about finding the right balance. If players fit in in the kind of balance we want to go in with as a side, then they will fit in. We certainly don’t go on opinions that are created outside, and talk of the town and all those sort of things.”
India’s opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay had made 46 runs over the two innings in the first Test. Kohli said that the team will soon decide whether to bring back KL Rahul into the helm of the batting order or not. “As far as the opening combination goes, we will decide today at the end of practice what is it that we are going to go within this game,” said the Indian skipper, “We might do something different also but there is definitely no need to panic.”
“It looks likely a really lively pitch,” he said, “It is exactly what we expected it to be and we actually wanted it to be that way so that both teams are into the contest provided they play some good cricket. This pitch will again test us to play our best cricket and that is something that we are looking forward to do.”
Kohli also feels that the batting lineup is in much better shape than they were in Cape Town. “I feel that definitely the batting order, through mistakes we committed in the first game and through the experience we gained in the first game, we are certainly in a much better shape to come at their bowling attack in this Test,” he added, “I don’t think we need to panic because of collapses. Whether we are playing five batsmen or six, you still need to apply yourself. It doesn’t mean that if you are playing six batters, you can afford to go out and play loose shots. You still need to have a solid technique and go out there and be ready to face spells, which are going to be difficult. We need to embrace that.”
Kohli said that he was happy with the way the slip cordon dealt with what was thrown at them in the first Test. “I am not going to sit here and talk about the last one year. The last game was pretty good, apart from one dropped catch from Shikhar in the first innings, which we looked at as a team. We want to plug all those game,” he said, “What’s happened in the last year does not matter. What matters is what we are going to do from tomorrow onwards to try and win this Test match.”