After beating Australia by 137 runs in the third Test to take an unassailable 2-1 lead in the four-match series, Virat Kohli opened up about pacer Jasprit Bumrah’s work ethic and impact on the team, the stability Cheteshwar Pujara brings to the batting order and the team’s mindset while being on the road for the last 12 months. Excerpts from Kohli’s post-match media interaction:
On Bumrah’s influence
Jasprit obviously is the best bowler in the world, as per me. He is a match winner, without doubt, even if he has only been playing (Test cricket) for 12 months. I mean if there was a pitch like Perth, I wouldn’t want to face Jasprit Bumrah to be honest because if he gets on a roll, he can really crank it up. The way he bowls is so much more different to anyone and I think he realizes that more than the batsmen. That’s why he is so confident about his skills.
On Bumrah’s transformation
I think the fact that he was showing amazing levels of energy and fitness in white-ball cricket and hence he was so good because he was not giving runs with the new ball. He was getting wickets; he would come back in the death overs and not bowl one loose delivery. He was training like he wanted to play Test cricket. He was that obsessed about his fitness levels and his work ethics. So we discussed before South Africa that if we put him as a surprise package he could be lethal if he gets his lines and lengths right.
On the pacer’s mindset
The mindset he (Bumrah) has is what separates him from anyone else in the world right now. He looks at the pitch and he doesn’t think it’s a hard toil on these wickets. He thinks how can I take make a breakthrough for the team and your mindset separates you from the rest. He is as strong headed as I have seen anyone in the past and that’s the key to his success, and that’s what I have seen in the past 12 months. The way he has matured and the areas he has bowled so quickly in his Test career I think it’s a scary sign for the batsmen around the world.
Pujara has been a lot more flexible in altering his game very quickly. From the last time he played in Australia, he has made a few changes to his set-up, and that’s working for him. If something has been told to him and he has to work on those things, he has worked on it. And now that we have the bowling attack that we can rely on to get us 20 wickets, his role becomes even more crucial. If he can bat time and hold one end, and all the other batsmen can bat positively around him, we get 350, touching 400, in conditions in Australia, which puts us in a great position to get a result. I think that confidence that is seen is because of them (bowlers) and he is embracing that very well.
On Agarwal’s debut
Mayank’s contribution was also special. His composure, his intent and belief, it was a huge boost for us. The way he batted at top of the order on first day, it has to be praised because it is not easy to come to Australia and start like that, and against such a bowling attack. He should also get a lot of credit for the win.
On bowlers’ game-plan
To be honest, in bowlers’ meeting, I usually just sit and listen. It is very important to understand what the bowlers are thinking. And then in that process you think of plan B, and you communicate that to the bowlers. That’s how we operate. But the fact that the bowlers are all the time dictating those meetings is how you win Test matches away from home. At the end of the day, they are running in with the ball so they need to be confident with their fields, where they are pitching, the pace of the wicket, how they can bowl dot balls and how they can get wickets. That fact that they have taken total ownership of their skill and taken responsibility for the team is what has set them apart this calendar year. Results are there for everyone to see. It is not just talk, you know, they have put the numbers on the board. It is a collective effort,” he said, about the bowling unit.
On the team effort
Even Bumrah’s team interview post game was all about how could I contribute to the team. That fact that he didn’t get any wickets in Perth and the way he bowled there, he didn’t lose heart, and he knew wickets are going to come at some stage. And if you see the other bowlers, they are not trying to outdo someone else. If Bumrah is taking wickets, they are containing runs. If someone is picking wickets, Bumrah comes in and does his job. So does Jadeja. So does Ashwin. It is a team effort at the end of the day. When it comes together nicely, when it gets you results, it feels wonderful because you play cricket to win and get results.