After a smooth sailing against New Zealand, India’s Test captain Virat Kohli is all primed up for another home series that consists of — for the first time in 30 years — five Tests. After losing openers K. L. Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan and middle-order batsman Rohit Sharma due to injuries, Kohli will have to make an important call on who will fill the No. 6 spot.
Excerpts from Kohli's media conference on Tuesday:
On the five-Test series:
Yes, it's been a while since we played five Tests. Advantages and disadvantages depend on the momentum you create from the first game. In a Test series, momentum is very, very important, and it gives the team an opportunity to set up a nice pace for the whole series, because it's very long and you play a lot of cricket. If every game goes for five days, then it's 25 days of hard-fought cricket. You need momentum because you have various sessions and situations that you play in. As a team, you obviously want to be on top and win as many sessions and situations as possible. The momentum from the first game is sort of defined if you have an advantage or a disadvantage as a team.
England as an opposition:
Since we came back from the West Indies, we knew that the home season is going to be tough. We're playing quality sides which have been doing well in Test cricket — New Zealand, England and Australia. So we knew we need to be more aware during crucial situations. There are areas that need improvement. Even in the last series, we understood and improved on them in the last Test, especially losing wickets at key times — before and after breaks. That was something that really hampered us in the past.
The mindset is not just to compete anymore. We want to win the series, we want to win Test matches. For that, you have to be at your 'A' game all the time and also keep improving on your 'A' game as well. That's been the mindset and the guys are ready for the challenge. These kind of matches and series are something that you play for. Against top sides, it tests your character, your skill, and you come out as a better cricketer regardless of the results, so that's something we're really looking forward to.
England's difficult series in Bangladesh:
I wouldn't say England struggled, they played really well in the first game. In the second game, Bangladesh played better in their conditions. We know England is a side that came to India last time and played well. We're not going to take anything for granted although we are playing some really good cricket. We want to focus on our strengths but you cannot ignore the opposition altogether.
On losing three Test series to England:
We don't think about those things; what's in the past, we can't go back and change it. We can only look forward to what we can do in the future, that's to play good cricket and express our skills to the best of our potential and play as a team.
On adopting a five-bowler strategy:
As I said before, it depends upon a situation, depends on the pitch and the opposition you are up against. It also depends upon which stage of the series you are in. If a team bats up to 10, then your effort will be to try and beef up your bowling. If a team bats up to only 6-7, then you will feel four bowlers are enough. We have no set plans. We tried (five bowlers) it at the beginning (of my captaincy) because we needed results (in Lanka and West Indies). After that if you are playing in India and if the bowlers are confident, they will believe that they can get wickets even with four bowlers. It’s all about balancing. So far we have managed it well and it will be our effort to continue that.
On England captain >Alastair Cook calling his team the 'underdogs':
See, this underdog thing is ....really I don’t know if it’s we being a strong team. I think some team might want to play it low at the start of the series and then surprise the opponent, but we are quite aware of those things; we have experienced those sort of tactics in the past. But at the same time we don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves. We understand what we need to do, so we are not going to get swayed away or carried away by the praise or adulation. At the same time, criticism as well.... If it’s constructive, from the team management or from the people who observe the game very well, it’s always welcome. But we never get carried away by praise. That’s why we have been able to perform consistently and that’s our only goal — to keep improving as a side and keep winning games. Nothing changes for us.
On the number of days the Tests will last:
Sir, no one can predict it. You tell me how many days? It depends upon what cricket we play and what cricket England plays. If it’s a hard-fought one, it might go for five days and if the opposition falters, it might end in four days. But you can never tell which opposition, that’s a tricky question. I am not fighting a boxing match that I can tell you the number of rounds.
On his failure against England:
I can put it simply as a phase in my career when I didn’t perform very well. I just take it as a setback in my career.
On captaincy getting the best out of him:
It hasn’t changed much as far as the mindset is concerned. I have always wanted to be a responsible player for India. But yes, it always gives an extra responsibility in making the right decisions in different situations. Sometimes you can get carried away, if you are not leading the side, but when you are leading the side, the stakes are much higher and you feel like you have to make sure that you make the right decisions. It does add to your concentration and character.
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