India’s Test captain Virat Kohli feels there is no need “to take criticisms to heart” about playing visiting South Africans on turning tracks, saying it is the result-oriented pitches that would bring the dwindling crowd back to the ground in the Test format.
Asked if the hat-trick of Test wins under his captaincy has been buried under the controversies surrounding the nature of Mohali track, Kohli gave a straightforward reply.
“It’s only disappointing if you are looking to take what is written or said to heart, or think about it too much. We focus on the process and don’t really think about what’s being written or what’s being said. The fact of the matter is we won a Test match and that’s what we feel good about as a team,” Kohli told reporters on the eve of the second Test starting in Bengaluru on Saturday.
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“We are not worried about any external factors or what’s being discussed about things that are not in our control. If someone chooses to say or write about something which they feel is a topic of interest, that’s their choice. It’s up to us if we take it to heart or sit down and feel disappointed. We are not at all disappointed. We won a game of cricket. We are very happy about it,” he added.
The first Test saw lukewarm response from spectators and the captain took a dig at critics stating that it is the result-oriented wickets that makes the crowd throng the ground.
“We should be delighted that we are getting result-oriented wickets because then you will have more people coming in to watch Test matches rather than you know criticising the pitches and saying it is not fair,” the skipper made it clear as to what exactly he felt about critics of rank turners.
For Kohli, the players are focussed so much on the game that other factors become non-issue when the match is on.
“It doesn’t really make us sad that we won’t have so many people turning up to watch this Test match. Obviously, you like playing in front of full stadiums and full crowds but eventually you are focusing on the ball that is bowled to you and as a bowler you are focusing on the ball that you have to bowl. We hope we get more number of people to watch this Test match because it is an exciting series, it is between two exciting and very strong teams.”
The 27-year-old feels that there has been “no change in his mindset” from the time he first led the side in Adelaide to now but with the passage of time, he has learnt to assess his mistakes.
“There is no change in mindset. There might be lessons learnt from mistakes. That day in Adelaide, we were looking to win a Test match and we will do so in Bangalore as well. Mindset remains same but you sit down and figure out the mistakes, you keep on correcting them as you go along.
“Similarly, when you are batting, the mindset does not change but you correct your mistakes and move along.”
During their comprehensive win in Mohali, the two batsmen who contributed were Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay and the skipper said that he is “proud of both of them”.
“We all are very proud of both of them (Pujara and Vijay), the way they batted in the last game. We can learn a lot from them in the way they applied themselves. Our batsmen didn’t apply themselves as much as we wanted to as a batting group and we are aware of that. But not taking credit away from the way both of them batted. I think they kept us in the game throughout and that is very important I think, two guys standing up in each innings. Their contributions in both the innings were very crucial to us.”
However the skipper said that he can’t relax just because the batsmen ahead of him are performing.
“I cannot be relaxed as a captain because I have to bat at No 4 so if I relax I will probably not be in the right kind of mindset to go out and play. But it is a nice feeling to see two professionals building a partnership and it is always a good feeling to know that you have two guys in front who know how to score runs and who know what they are doing out in the middle.
“It is always a very calming influence in the change room for the guys sitting outside or the bowlers as to say, they can feel pretty relaxed and pretty calm about those batting in the middle.”
Praising Punjab’s Gurkeerat Singh for his recent run of form in domestic cricket, Kohli said the batting all-rounder “brings balance” to the side and certainly fits into the future scheme of things in the senior team.
Gurkeerat, who bats right-handed and is an off-spinner, was drafted as the 16th member of the side last evening after being kept as a reserve fielder during the Test match in Mohali.
“He (Gurkeerat) has earned his call-up. He certainly fits in scheme of things and don’t be surprised if you see him playing soon. I wish him all the luck. I can’t put a particular time when but he has ability with the bat at that No.6 or No.7 position. He is a very dangerous, instinctive player, who can take the game away from opposition,” the skipper was generous in his praise for Gurkeerat, who has been a premier performer for India A during this season.
“He (Gurkeerat) is also bowling well but he is primarily a batsman. He is working very hard on his bowling. He has earned this call up. Because, these type of cricketers bring balance that is very important to the team’s cause as we will be playing a lot of Test matches in the sub-continent in next year and half.
“It will be very important for us to have guys like Gurkeerat, who can provide the balance for us as Stuart (Binny) did it in Sri Lanka. Their contribution with the bat and then coming to bowl getting a couple of wickets is very important to us,” the skipper explained the logic behind Gurkeerat’s late inclusion in the side.
The skipper also expressed his delight at having Ishant Sharma back in the playing XI but at the same time praised Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron for bowling 20-odd tight overs during the Mohali Test.
“I’m very delighted that Ishant is back. The way he is bowling and the way he bowled in Sri Lanka brings a lot to the table. With Ishant coming in, he brings in a lot of experience. He’s bowled well in sub-continental conditions, knows how to reverse the (old) ball, can lead the pace attack.
“As I mentioned before, the combination can or will change according to the conditions. So I would rather have a guy who will give me control in an important time in the game rather than someone who will just get the overs out of way. There is a change in mindset there as well.
Kohli then went onto praise Umesh and Aaron for their effort in Mohali, “It is not just about the spinners. We have quality seamers as well. We saw that in Mohali as well. For those two (Umesh and Aaron) to rush the batsmen on that sort of a wicket, takes a lot of heart, takes a lot of effort. So I was really happy to see that personally. If you see Mohali, the fast bowlers in total, both the innings put together bowled about 20 overs. But they were pretty important in the course of the game.
“If those 20 overs go for 100 runs then you are not in a position to win a Test match. So they played their role perfectly. It is important for the three guys bowling the most of the overs to have two guys after them who can also maintain the same momentum and control the run-rate as well, which is very important in Test matches.”
There has been consistent rainfall in the city over the last three days including heavy overnight showers which led the groundsmen needing extra time to get the field ready for training. The Indian captain admitted that combination will also depend a lot on conditions.
“It does play a part as specially knowing that you might not have full game time. You need to make changes and the team management and myself have spoken about it. We will make the necessary changes according to what weather looks like and keep all factors in mind before picking a squad for Test.”
However, he ruled that knowing Chinnaswamy conditions better than opposition will have any bearing on the outcome of the match.
“Knowing the conditions obviously helps but you have to go out there and play good cricket. It does help a little bit but you have to go out there and execute our plans. A few of their players also know the conditions well so I don’t think it would make much of a difference.”