Calling the 2-0 outcome a ‘fair representation’ of the Test series, India skipper Virat Kohli pointed out that the players’ selfless attitude is the main reason for India enjoying success in the five-day format for the past year and a half. Although India lost the No. 1 Test spot after the drawn encounter against West Indies in Trinidad, which saw only 22 overs being bowled, Kohli reiterated that the ranking was only a short-term incentive and that a team should be judged only on basis of the performance after a season.
The captain, who addressed the media at the end of the four-Test series, reflected on quite a few positives for the team, including the batting efforts of Wriddhiman Saha and R Ashwin. He was also pleased with the performance of the pacers while he spoke about the need to be flexible as a team. Excerpts from Kohli’s press conference:
‘Saha, Ashwin biggest positives’
On India’s gains after the Test series
It’s been pretty good for. We had come here looking to improve in a few areas and we have done that. For me, the biggest positive is [Wriddhiman] Saha getting runs in the lower order, plus [Ravichandran] Ashwin coming good at No. 6. Those were the areas for us to solidify. I hope we can keep on improving this aspect of our game because these are the positions which matter a lot in Test cricket. If you see, in teams which have done consistently well in Tests, their lower order has always contributed.
‘We should be flexible’
On the six batsmen vs five bowlers conundrum
We lost a Test in Galle when we were a batsman short. Even in the home series against South Africa, we were struggling on quite a few occasions because of the lack of one more batsmen. So we wanted to try this combination out, though the game didn’t happen here, that if we play four specialist bowlers at home we may not need the fifth. Because if you play with three front-line spinners at home and one pacer, it probably does the job for you. So we thought even if we play two spinners and two pacers, Rohit and Vijay can give those 10 overs and that does the job. Away from home, you need all your best bowlers playing because you don’t know how the wickets will play. Besides, we are going to play world-class sides at home who are going to capitalise on the window of chance we give them. So it was just something we wanted to try out. If we play with this combination going ahead, the team should be comfortable playing in this situation. If we play with just one combination, teams are going to start planning against us. We should be flexible both ways.
‘It’s a pretty fair representation’
On the outcome of the series
The amount of cricket we played, it’s a pretty fair representation. We lost a day of cricket in Jamaica. One thing we realised that we don’t want to move on thinking about ‘what if we have to do, what’s in front of us’. But let’s give credit to West Indies who showed resilience and played really good cricket on Day 5. That’s what you expect from a Test-playing nation. Here we didn’t have a game and we couldn’t control the result. The other two games we played, we won convincingly and that pleased the whole squad.
‘They’ve worked on consistency a lot’
On the Indian pacers’ performance during the tour
We have a good bunch of fast bowlers now. Apart from these five guys we have Varun Aaron who’s played Test cricket, who has a lot of pace. We have Dhawal Kulkarni, we have identified a few bowlers back home as well who we want to keep fit and want to keep them up-to-date with the fitness levels required to play at this level in Test-match cricket, so that for me is one aspect that’s been really pleasing to see. How Shami’s [Mohammed Shami] come back as well, how Bhuvi’s [Bhuvneshwar Kumar] come back to full fitness, he’s bowling good speeds with swing as well. Ishant [Sharma] has always been consistently hitting good areas for us. You will see, with him, not having too many wickets in 3-4 innings, but suddenly he’ll pick you a seven-for or six-for. That’s why we back a guy like Ishant, because, against top-quality sides, he can still keep hitting those areas and he puts the batsman under pressure and that’s the reason why he’s played consistently in Test cricket for the country over the past few years. Umesh [Yadav] has bowled wonderfully as well.
The good thing is that everyone’s flexible to be played or not played according to the conditions, and that, for a captain, is obviously a very good thing, because it gives you flexibility in the bowling combination that you want to pick, plus we have enough skill among those five bowlers to play in different conditions as well, so that was one aspect after someone like Zak [Zaheer Khan] retired that was a big gap to fill, but these guys have started to take responsibility nicely, they’ve understood the areas that need improvement, and they’ve worked on consistency a lot. That’s something that I saw in this series as well.
‘Rankings keep going up and down’
On India losing the top ranking in Test cricket
Well, we didn’t play for ranking, it just happened. Had Pakistan not won, you know, had we drawn the last game, then rankings are different again, so that is not something in our control. As I said in the last press conference as well, that is a very short-term incentive, it’s very short-lived because we understand the points table is very close, and as a team we think we can assess ourselves at the end of the season, not one Test match at a time, so I wasn’t too excited when we became No. 1 because I knew that it’s pretty close, the other teams have played more games than us, and we need to play as many games, that’s what I feel, to be able to compare, after the whole season is done. That’s why I said we’ll be able to assess ourselves as a side when we finish the whole season, so it’s fine. Rankings keep going up and down, you don’t play for rankings, but you obviously want to be a very strong side in the world, and that’s always been our aim, to be the best side in the world.
‘Selflessness is the biggest quality of this team’
On how the Indian team is working towards being the best in the world
Like I said before, Saha scoring runs, Ashwin taking responsibility at No. 6, these were some areas where we needed improvement, because if you play five bowlers, you know the lower order is also confident, and will take responsibility, and your top order can play more freely. They won’t be under too much pressure, and good totals will be made. Bowlers are taking responsibility, they are not selfish. If one bowler needs to bowl in one area, he’s doing that, so that the other bowler can get wickets, and I think this is very necessary, for the people in the team to be selfless, and it’s the biggest quality of this team, that if someone else is taking wickets, the other bowler will bowl in one area. It’s not that he will go after wickets and spoil our plans. Our team has developed this attitude, and we will have to keep working on the same thing as we go forward if we are to become the strongest team in the world. If we drift from that plan, and everyone gets too involved in their own personal preparation, then the team’s plan gets disturbed. We have addressed this, and everyone has responded beautifully, and that’s why we’ve managed to win quite a few matches in the last year and a half.