Talking tough ahead of the of the Test series against Australia, stand-in-skipper Virat Kohli said that the team is in the right frame of mind and totally equipped to handle the dangerous Mitchell Johnson.
“I think coming to Australia and playing, it’s more about the mindset rather than getting used to the conditions, because pace and bounce is something which you can get used to. But unless you’re mentally there, there’s no point of any sort of practice,” Kohli told reporters on the eve of the first two-day warm-up match against Cricket Australia XI.
Kohli also opined that the team is “absolutely” capable of withstanding the threat posed by the paceman Johnson. “He’s been bowling really well – everyone knows that.
Credit to him for doing all that,” Kohli said. “We are equipped enough to tackle him on these pacy and bouncy wickets. I don’t see any good reason why we can’t come up and put up a good fight.
“It’s all about mentally being there. If you can visualise being in that battle and being on top, I think you’re going to be able to go out there and execute it. I think the guys in our team have the ability to do it … it’s all about being mentally present.”
Given the responsibility of leading the side in the first Test in the absence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who is recovering from a wrist injury, Kohli, who led India to the Under-19 World Cup triumph in 2008, said that he has always been comfortable as a leader.
“I love leading the side, I love being captain, I love putting my first foot forward and putting in my (views) throughout the game. I don’t see any issues on why I can’t be up to the challenge.
“As long as the team backs me and puts in the performances we want, I think I’m going to look good at the end of the day,” said Kohli.
Responding to Australian paceman Peter Siddle’s jibe that he might find the rowdy crowd and added responsibilities “a bit daunting”, Kohli, who will become India’s 32nd Test captain at the start of the four-Test series in Brisbane on December 4, was quick to answer back.
“Well that’s for me to know and for me to experience,” said the top-order batsman.
“I’ve played against him, he’s quite a competitive guy so I’m not surprised there’s already some banter starting from that end … (and) I don’t mind all that, he added.
Kohli also voiced his concern about his counterpart Michael Clarke’s injury-disrupted lead-up to the first Test.
“I’ve heard about Michael Clarke’s hamstring injury. I’m not in a position to comment on that because I don’t know how serious it is,” he said.
“It’s very unfortunate for a cricketer before a Test series to have that sort of an injury.”
India’s 4-0 Test loss to Australia in 2011-12 season came after five days of match practice, while this tour starts with four days of warm-up games. Kohli though just wants to perform in whatever practice is available.
“It should be enough. We don’t have any choice, I guess. We’ve got to do whatever we can with those four days of practice games, and the sessions in between.”
The 26-year-old was India’s best batsman in the 0-4 drubbing and said he would enter this rubber wiser.
“There’s more pace and bounce, so the shot selection becomes very important. That’s what I saw last time – you need a lot more patience compared to back home. You’ve got to pick the right balls to hit in the right areas and figure out with the big fields what are your spots and strengths are – and the areas you should avoid early on with the new Kookaburra because it does quite a bit, especially on these tracks,” he said.
“I think Australia is a great place to bat on, once you get in. The morning session goes through [well for bowlers]. The guys need to realise that and play themselves in.
Eventually I experienced that last time as well. It’s a beautiful place to play cricket as a batsman, it’s a lovely place to be when you’re 30 or 40 and the ball gets a bit old.”
In the previous visit Kohli was fined for an obscene finger gesture, which he made in response to crowd taunting. The aggressive Delhi player said that he is “certainly expecting it again”.
“I had quite a bit of it last time, but I loved it. Once you perform in those conditions, the people love you here and they love a good fight,” he said.
“We’re here to play aggressive cricket, play the brand of cricket that Australia plays. They can expect a lot of fightbacks on the the bat and there’s going to be more aggression this time around with the whole squad.”
The series opener in Brisbane will be followed by three more Tests in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.