“Main bahut der se is sawaal ka wait kar raha tha (I have been waiting for this particular question for sometime now),” India Test captain Virat Kohli told a journalist, barely 10 minutes into the press conference, evoking guffaws. Just moments before the presser, India had registered an emphatic 337-run win over South Africa at the Feroz Shah Kotla, to win the four-Test match series 3-0. However, bulk of the narrative this series had centred around the nature of pitches. It was therefore not surprising that when a journalist raked up this issue once again after India’s win, Kohli’s followed it up with this repartee, which obviously had everyone in splits. “You guys have already asked me five questions so far, but till now nobody has asked me about the pitch or the turning ball,” he said.
Buoying confidence, Kohli believed this young side had the ability to win against any opposition, and under any condition. So, in essence he said he did not have any control over what the critics wrote about his team. What he could control though, was the manner in which his team performed on the field.
“What they (critics) write is not under my control…if we lose they can blame us and write about our weaknesses, which I think is absolutely fair. But to talk about the pitch and the turning ball at a time when we had won the series so comprehensively is pretty unfair,” he lamented.
These comments from the India captain quelled all possible talk of the pitch for some time now, at least for the next 10 minutes during the press conference. Kohli, instead looked to delve on some of the positives, which played stellar roles in orchestrating this series win. Prior to this win, India had also won a 3-Test series in Sri Lanka under his leadership. However, beating the Proteas at home, according to Kohli was “the icing on the cake.”
“The important thing was that everyone performed and contributed to this win. In the bowling department, Ashwin and Jadeja were the stellar performers, but others like Mishra, Aaron, Ishant and Yadav too chipped in. Similarly in our batting, everybody got runs…so I think it was a comprehensive and an all-round performance,” he explained.
Impressed by rivals
Unlike his previous two wins in Mohali and Nagpur, India had to work hard to dismantle the Proteas here at the Feroz Shah Kotla. One of the reasons being the dogged resistance their batsmen put up while chasing an improbable 481 in the last two days. Kohli admitted he was surprised at South Africa’s approach in the second innings, but was quick to add that their ultra defensive approach always kept his bowlers in the game.
“I was surprised with their approach to be honest. But I was also impressed by the way in which they had applied themselves. At the same time, I was happy that there was a phase in which our bowlers got tested. But they were patient, and they can be really proud of their efforts. This is what Test cricket is all about,” he noted.
Kohli has now led India in the long format on 10 occasions, winning five and losing three of them. A pretty impressive start to his captaincy, at least in terms of numbers. He said he was enjoying his stint as the leader of this young motley bunch, and added the additional responsibility that came along with leading a side was something that only motivated him even more. “This is just my third series as Test captain, and I have thoroughly enjoyed this stint.”
Over the last 12 months or so, the 27-year-old has won praise for his aggressive captaincy and the amount of energy his young side brought onto the field. Kohli conceded the journey began during India’s tour to Australia last year. India lost that series 2-0, but they surprised everyone with their aggressive brand of cricket.
“It all began in Australia last year. We did not win anything…but everytime we performed, we fought hard and gave them a stiff challenge. Going forward, that tour instilled a lot of confidence in this side,” he reckoned.
Aggression, energy and confidence will be this team’s watchwords in the future. However, Kohli is more intent on building a strong Test team, which will focus on executing their skills and playing to their full potential.
“Our focus is on executing our skills…we really don’t care about our opposition or are we concerned about what others are writing or thinking about us. We are only concerned about winning and creating a strong bond within the team,” he added.
For the moment though, he and his young side can afford to take time off and uncork that bottle of champagne.