India’s captain Virat Kohli has underlined his team’s principle in compartmentalising roles for a common goal. He has said batsmen or bowlers have had a template to follow to complement the relevant efforts of others to chalk out Test victories.
Ahead of the fourth Test in Mumbai, Kohli elaborated on how his bowlers have been effective in Tests in the past year, a marked change from a lacklustre bowling effort during the tour of Australia in 2014-15, when Kohli had taken over captaincy.
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India, under Kohli, has won 12 of the 18 Tests it has played since the Australia tour, and lost just one, against Sri Lanka in Galle.
“I think one area that [fast bowlers] have worked really hard on is the consistency bit, and understanding that you don’t necessarily have to come at the batsman all the time. It’s important to have patience in particular sessions and for that you need to get fitter. You need to get fitter to keep bowling those lines – those fourth, fifth stump lines,” Kohli said.
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“I think it’s been a process that they’ve followed. It’s a routine that they’ve been a part of where they get physically stronger, they get mentally stronger to keep bowling in those areas. They’re not desperate to come in and pick up five wickets. They’re pretty happy playing their roles and as a captain, I think that’s the most important thing as a team, when people are willing to play their roles and not get desperate or selfish at any stage of the game. I think that’s been a key factor for us to get the results that we wanted and come back from difficult situations,” he added.
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His fast bowlers have been in and out of the team due to injuries, but Kohli has said he was not bothered by it due to the good performances by his replacement bowlers.
“Whoever has stepped in has given match-winning performances. The two times Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) has come in, > in St. Lucia once, and > in Kolkata once, he has picked up five wickets and became a match-winner for us. I’m not worried at all because the guys sitting outside are waiting for opportunities, which is I think a great sign for the team and that’s why whoever has played at any stage has given those performances for us because they’re pretty keen to step on to the field and grab the opportunity with both hands,” Kohli said.
The batsmen have been contributing as a team as well, suggested Kohli, as they fulfil the particular roles and tasks given to them by the team management. They also chip in for team-mates who were not making runs.
“It’s not about going into your own zone and not doing what your team wants you to do. It’s about executing what’s been told by the team management and that’s why we have had more team performances in the past 12-14 months than individuals standing out to an extent that others look ordinary,” Kohli said.
“It’s all about covering for another guy who is not getting the runs that he wants to get, and that’s what team sport is all about. We don’t believe in picking out individuals and saying ‘this one’s not playing well’ or ‘this one’s playing extraordinarily well’. We compensate for someone who is not being able to get runs and that’s how the team goes forward and that’s how you pick up your teammates and move forward,” he added.
The team is unsure of including seamer Mohammad Shami in the line-up for the Test in Mumbai, as he has had soreness in the knee. “We will take a call in the evening on Shami in terms of how he is feeling with his knee. After the Mohali Test, I think, he felt a bit of soreness in his knee. We need to take a corrective call on that because he has had a history of knee surgeries. We don’t want to push a player where we lose him for the whole season,” Kohli said.
A member of the bowling line-up who is likely to feature, though, is newcomer Jayant Yadav. Kohli did not hide his good impression on him. “He’s pretty confident of his skills, it’s pretty evident and it can only come with professionalism. He practices his skills very well. He’s fit. He understands the game, he’s an intelligent guy, so a great package for team India. In years to come, you’ll see a lot more match-winning performances from him. He’s got all the skills needed to be very good Test player. I’ve been really impressed.”
Murali Vijay and K. L. Rahul will be India’s openers for Mumbai, Kohli confirmed, as Rahul had sufficiently recovered from his injury.
The eight-day break, which gave Rahul some time to recover, was an enjoyable break for India, Kohli said. When asked if England could tour in two phases in the future, for a Christmas break in between, Kohli said, “Either they stay here for the whole tour or we come back [home] for 25 days as well [in our tours to England].”