Virat Kohli does not regret his showdown with Steve Smith over DRS but the Indian skipper on Wednesday said he has decided to bury the hatchet and focus on the third cricket Test against Australia starting on Thursday. Kohli, who had stopped short of calling Smith ‘cheat’ after their dramatic 75-run win against Australia in Bengaluru, was flooded with questions on the DRS controversy but Kohli had only one answer: Time to focus on cricket.
“A lot has been given into the incident. It’s time we focused on the remainder of the series. There’s lot of cricket to be played and it should not happen in bad taste. What’s happened in Bengaluru happened in Bengaluru, we are in Ranchi and we should look forward to tomorrow,” Kohli said at the news conference on the eve of the third Test.
“Both teams have moved ahead from Bengaluru. I think the focus should get back on the series because the priority is here cricket. All other things happen in the background, we understand that as cricketers.”
Smith’s gesture of taking help from his teammates in the dressing room for a DRS call after he was adjudged LBW by umpire Nigel Llong erupted into a controversy as Kohli at the post-match news conference did not utter the word “cheat” but said it “falls in that bracket”. It led to an exchange between the two rival captains before ICC intervened and brokered peace without penalising anyone in what was snowballing into another controversy like the bitter Monkeygate episode.
In his first interaction after his tirade against Smith in Bengaluru, Kohli said he did not regret what he said but at the same time he wanted to move on. “See, I think about what I say. I don’t regret anything that I’ve said. But at the same time, it’s very important not to be stupid and go on with the same thing on a daily basis because there’s cricket to be played,” he said.
“There was a decent break in between. We certainly don’t want to sit and think about one issue all the time. We have two Test matches to play and that’s what we need to focus on.”
Hailing both the Boards to call truce after ICC’s intervention, Kohli said: “It was a mature decision on everyone’s part to move on from that. We’ve seen instances in the past when it stretched too long and it just caused disharmony and there’s no (other) outcome. We just need to focus on the two games. You will always have two sides of the coin…that just takes the focus away from the game that we all are sitting here because of. I think it’s in the best interest of everyone that we move on and focus on the game.
“It’s not the first time in my career people have spoken about me and certainly not the last time. I would have done few things right in my career to be given the opportunity to captain the side. As long as you’re honest and you work hard, you are answerable to no one. Everyone has their own opinion. I’m not challenging anyone. It’s totally up to them if someone challenges me. I am not going to hold a banner saying don’t speak ill about me. It’s all part of a whole journey.”
Asked whether he’s being targeted, Kohli said: “It does not matter to me honestly. I don’t start a series saying ‘focus on me, speak about me or write about me’. It’s not in my control. What’s in my control is what happens on the field. If people chose to write about me, speak about me, that’s their choice.
“Whether it’s criticism or praise, it’s all happened all in the past as well. Honestly these things don’t affect me. It does not matter who writes what about me. They are doing their job, I’m doing mine. No one plays 15-16 years of international cricket without being criticised. Everyone’s making most of their jobs and my job is to play on the field,” he added.
Kohli had accused the Aussies of taking dressing room help for a DRS review on previous occasions and when further asked about the allegations, the Indian captain continued to stress on moving forward. “What were the allegations? If no charges were pressed against me how are those allegations? As I said, we need to move on and focus on the Test tomorrow. There are two sides of the coin,” he said. “I could be talking about another again and things are not just going to move forward. Everyone here has their own interests. Our focus remains on the game and we need to look forward.”
With the spotlight in the news conference firmly on the Bengaluru episode, Kohli went on to thank a journalist who asked a question on Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane’s match-turning century-plus partnership. “Thank you for asking about cricket. Individually I think it’s adjustments that guys make in their techniques. I saw Pujara opening up his stance, I think it was apt to give himself more space,” he said. “Ajinkya trying to play inside the line of the ball not trying to play through the covers. KL has been batting really well. But those two guys really stepped up and found their ways. That was the difference. Such minor things can make massive differences. We certainly saw that as those two guys are finding ways to get runs on the wicket,” he addd.
Locked 1-1, the series is tantalisingly poised ahead of the penultimate Test in Ranchi which once again promises to live up to the expectations. Kohli said the series is not about any individual contests. “We don’t focus too much on the opposition. Honestly Ashwin did not look at it as a reply to Nathan’s eight-wicket haul. He bowled well for Australia, he got eight wickets, he deserved to get them,” he said.
“Ashwin bowled well in the second innings and he deserved to get six wickets. It’s as plain and simple to us. We don’t look at any of these competitions as such before the series, who versus who. I think these contests are created to get more excitement in the series which is fare.
“But we just focus on what we need to do in certain sessions to win games for Team India. That remains our priority. We don’t get too much into looking at the other guy — how many runs or wickets they’ve got. That takes the focus away from what we need to do. That’s not a good mindset to be in and we certainly don’t think like that.”