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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Need to bring in right people with right mindset: Kohli hints at overhaul of Test side

After his side lost the WTC Final by eight wickets here on Wednesday with batting being a major letdown, the Indian captain didn't take any names but expressed his displeasure at some players for not showing enough "intent" to score runs.

By: PTI | Southampton |
Updated: June 24, 2021 1:20:36 pm
WTC final, IND vs NZVirat Kohli reacts after India's loss in the ICC World Test Championship final against New Zealand. (AP)

India skipper Virat Kohli has indicated an overhaul of his Test team after the stunning loss to New Zealand in the World Test Championship final here, saying that “right people who have the right mindset to perform” will be brought in following a reassessment.

After his side lost the WTC Final by eight wickets here on Wednesday with batting being a major letdown, the Indian captain didn’t take any names but expressed his displeasure at some players for not showing enough “intent” to score runs.

Senior batsman Cheteshwar Pujara managed 8 off 54 balls in the first innings and consumed 35 balls for his first run. He then scored just 15 runs off 80 balls in the second essay. In the end, New Zealand chased down a 139-run target without much trouble.

“We will continue to reassess and continue to have conversations around what are the things required to strengthen our side and not follow or fall prey to certain patterns,” Kohli said at the post match virtual press conference.

It can be safely assumed that some of the seniors will be on borrowed time and only a stellar performance in the five-Test series against England in August can secure their futures.

“We will not wait for a year or so and have to plan ahead. If you see our white ball team now, we have great depth and guys are ready and confident. Same thing needs to be done with Test cricket.

“You have to reassess and replan and understand what dynamics work for the team and how we can be fearless. Bring in right people who have right mindset to perform,” the skipper added.

For the current management, a 50 off 80 balls is of more value than a 15 off 80 which can put unnecessary pressure on batsmen coming after someone with an ultra-defensive mindset.

WTC final winners New Zealand’s captain Kane Williamson holds the winners trophy as he celebrates with his teammates after their win in the World Test Championship final cricket match against India, at the Rose Bowl in Southampton, England, Wednesday, June 23, 2021. New Zealand won the match by eight wickets. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)

Kane Williamson scored seven runs in a session during the first innings but when it mattered, he scored a half-century of 80 odd balls during final session of the Test match.

“I think evolving with the game and improving yourself with the game is very important and when you have been a top side for few years in a row, you don’t want to suddenly drop your standards…

“We will certainly take those decisions and have those conversations and in near future,” the skipper looked visibly hurt and in a mood to take some tough calls in near future.

He also spoke about finding ways to score runs against quality attacks like that of New Zealand. India scored only 217 in the first innings and were all out for 170 in the second effort.

“We definitely need to work out better plans on understanding how to score runs. We have to stay in sync with the momentum of the game and not let the game drift away too much. I don’t think there are any technical difficulties as such,” he asserted.

“It’s more down to game awareness and being more brave in putting bowlers under pressure and not allowing them to bowl in similar areas for longer periods of time unless it is absolutely overcast and ball swinging all over the place like it happened on day 1.”

“You can’t be too worried about getting out as your bringing the bowler into the game completely. If as a batting unit, we put 300 on the board, it’s a different kind of pressure on opposition with the kind of bowlers we have.

Kohli urged his batsmen to take calculated risks and strike a balance between well-timed strokeplay and holding an end.

“The endeavour would be to try and score runs and not worry about getting out in testing conditions. That’s the way you can put the opposition under pressure otherwise you are standing there hoping that you dont get out, which you eventually will be because you are not being optimistic enough.

Up to Rishabh to understand if it was an error of judgement

Rishabh pant Rishabh Pant reacts after losing his wicket during the sixth day of the World Test Championship final cricket match between New Zealand and India, at the Rose Bowl in Southampton, England, Wednesday, June 23, 2021. AP/PTI

Rishabh Pant’s aggressive approach didn’t yield results but his repeated attempts to charge down the track against pacers and missing the swinging deliveries raised questions about his game awareness.

The skipper, however, seemed fine with his intent to score rather than looking to survive.

“Rishabh’s definitely going to be an expressive player whenever he gets an opportunity…he assesses it really well and when things don’t come off, you can say error in judgement, which is acceptable in sport,” the skipper said.

“But we don’t want him to lose his positivity or optimism in changing the situation for team. We are not too worried. It is up to him to understand whether it was error in judgement and rectify it moving forward.”

Don’t know reasons for not getting first-class games ahead of England series

India captain Virat Kohli said his team wanted to play first-class games to build up for the five-Test series against England in August but their request was turned down for reasons not known to him.

The Indian team, which lost the Word Test Championship final against New Zealand, came into the marquee clash without any first-class game while the champions got ready with a two Test series against England.

The Indian team on Thursday will disperse for a three-week break from the bio-bubble and reassemble in Nottingham on July 14 for the preparations of the Test series starting August 4.

Asked if a few first-class games would have been better, the skipper said that it depended on people who created the itinerary.

“That doesn’t depend on us,” he said.

“We obviously wanted first-class games which I believe has not been given to us. I don’t know what the reasons for that are,” the straight-talking Indian captain said during the post-match virtual media conference.

This would mean that there will be intra-squad simulation games once again but the Indian captain feels that three weeks of preparation will be good enough for the series.

“The preparation time will be ample for us to be ready for the first Test,” Kohli said.

To put things in perspective, it was the BCCI which had asked the England and Wales Cricket Board to cancel two official first-class games that India was supposed to play in the month of July as a tune-up to the Test series.

“We had a shadow tour of India A which was supposed to overlap with our senior team’s tour. In fact, we had two official first-class games between India and India A that was supposed to be held.

“But then we came with a jumbo squad and after discussions with ECB, the matches were cancelled,” a BCCI source told PTI on conditions of anonymity.

While the Indian skipper would have fancied first-class games against county sides or England Lions (‘A’ side), it wouldn’t have been possible as the domestic season is on in the UK at this point in time.

The County Championship is on and currently, it’s the domestic T20 tournament ‘Vitality Blast’ is on and it will be followed by the much awaited ‘The Hundred’.

It would have been difficult for India to get a quality opposition which would have helped them in preparing for the Test series.

Best Test team should be decided over at least three games, not one-off final

Echoing the views of head coach Ravi Shastri, India skipper Virat Kohli has said that the best Test team in the world should be decided by a best-of-three final and not a one-off game like it was in the inaugural edition.

“Well, look, firstly, I’m not in absolute agreement of deciding the best Test side in the world over the course of one game, to be very honest,” Kohli said in the post-match press conference.

“If it is a Test series, it has to be a test of character over three Tests, which team has the ability to come back into the series or totally blow away the other team.

“It can’t just be a pressure applied over two days of good cricket and then you suddenly are not a good Test side anymore. I don’t believe in that.”

Shastri had advocated a three-match finale before the team departed for England earlier this month.

Kohli feels a multi-game final would also capture the essence of Test cricket much better than a one off showdown.

“I think it has to be a hard grind and something that definitely needs to be worked on in the future to really — at the end of three matches, there’s effort, there’s ups and downs, there’s situations changing throughout the course of the series…

“…A chance to rectify the things that you’ve done wrong in the first game and then really see who’s the better side over the course of a three-match series or something will be a good measure of how things really are.”

Kohli maintained the loss to New Zealand is not a true reflection of their achievements in the two-year WTC cycle.

“…So we are not too bothered by this result because we understand, as I said, as a Test side what we’ve done over the last three, four years, not just over the last 18 months but over the last three, four years.

“So this is not a measure of who we are as a team and the ability and the potential we have had for so many years now.”

Scheduling a best of three final amid a packed international calendar will be a big challenge for the ICC going forward. Kohli said one tends to remember a hard fought series a lot more than a single contest.

“I think this definitely has to be brought in. I’m not saying this because we’re not on the winning side, but just for Test cricket and for this saga to be absolutely memorable.

“I think it has to happen over a period of three games minimum so that you have a series to remember because there are going to be ups and downs through and through with two quality sides going at each other knowing that there’s so much on the line,” he added.

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