It was a Virat Kohli press conference that had just questions and answers, but no supplementaries or tetchy conversations. It wasn’t anything like the last one he had at Centurion more than a week back. Anyway, the media manager had set the rules before he opened the floor for questions. “Only one question at a time, no second questions, and no opinions.”
The post-series defeat interaction at Centurion was the reason for the new order. After the second innings collapse on the final day, Kohli had got involved in a back-and-forth with a couple of reporters. On both occasions, the issue was the playing XI. Queries about the constant chopping and changing of the team hadn’t gone down well with the losing captain.
But that was in the past. Today at Wanderers, the conversations were cordial. Kohli said how he was learning every day, he acknowledged that his team’s fielding wasn’t up to the mark and the need for the individuals in the team to reflect on their mistakes.
Even when he was presented, on a platter, a ready excuse about the team not getting enough time to prepare, he wasn’t taking it. Kohli at Wanderers was very different from Kohli at Centurion. He wasn’t too sensitive to probing questions, he was in an introspective mood.
This was a day after South African skipper Greame Smith had said that he didn’t see Kohli as a long-term captain since he can’t really connect with the rest of the team and take them a level up. He had said, “At the end of this year, he’d have been away from home for a while, the pressure he’ll face, the scrutiny from the press — I know he gets that in India — but if you’re away from home and you’re struggling for form as a team, I don’t know if I’d want to burden Virat Kohli with that.”
Kohli said he could never stop learning as a captain. “So it’s always an ongoing process of learning everyday, learning from your mistakes, correcting those mistakes and going forward … I have never stopped learning, I will never stop learning. Look, responsibility can become less or more according to the phases, it’s all about hanging in there and accepting all the phases that are coming your way,” he said.
Kohli went on to add, “So even this is a part of it. I have to take it in my stride and go forward. And not sit here and say ‘this is a lot of burden’. That’s not the right attitude. I’m willing to go through any kind of phase, I have gone through bad phases in my career. Ups and downs are a part of a sportsman’s career and I understand that. As I said, you learn everyday and keep moving forward.”
There was another answer, where he mentioned the word ‘mistake’ twice. This was after he was asked if the flaws of the repeatedly failing Indian batsmen were addressed. “Look, Sanjay Bangar is there, the batting coach, and he is assisting us with all our batting requirements for so long. Everyone has been spoken to individually; the discussions have happened as to what went wrong, what happened, why it happened and the guys have taken it well. And as I said, anytime you step on to the field, you have an opportunity to correct your mistakes, and that’s how you progress at the international level. I am sure everyone is looking forward to rectifying those mistakes and then if they are in the same positions, consolidating those positions.
‘Scheduling not a problem’
And he wasn’t blaming anyone for the result, and those responsible for scheduling.
“I think responsibility isn’t just one-sided, I think it’s a collective responsibility of everyone and those aspects are and have been a point of consideration for a while. I personally don’t feel that we didn’t feel prepared starting this series. As I said, we are not going to sit and think of outside factors that made us lose. It was our errors, our mistakes of not capitalising on situations that led us to the result being 2-0 so far. I am not pinpointing anything else, I think those talks are left for later planning for future.”