Kohli: ‘If Pant misses a chance, people can't shout MS is in the stadium’

Kohli insists that Pant needs to be given the space to perform. “If you want him to do well and win matches for the team, all of us collectively need to make him feel like he belongs.”

Virat Kohli speaks to the media on the eve of the first T20I between India and West Indies, in Hyderabad on Thursday.   -  AFP

Indian captain Virat Kohli feels that his team needs to focus on improved performance when batting first and defending low totals in the T20 format.

Speaking to media on the eve of the T20 international against West Indies here on Thursday, Kohli spoke at length about the team’s chances in the series and the plans in place for the next year’s T20 World Cup.

Excerpts:

On India’s pace attack:

It's not that big an issue for us. Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) and (Jasprit) Bumrah are experienced bowlers. They've been very consistent in T20 cricket. Deepak (Chahar) has come in and bowled really well, he's really worked on his game. Shami is coming back in, he's bowling really really well. So, we feel that if he gets into a rhythm and he specifically works on what's required in T20 cricket, then he will be very very useful in a place like Australia as well, especially with his ability to pick wickets with the new ball. And he has enough pace to execute yorkers. On wickets that assist him he will be a very handy bowler.

Also, another couple of guys are in the scanner for sealing that spot along with three seamers. Yeah, it's a good position to be in because everyone is bowling really well and the fight honestly is for one spot. I think more or less three guys have made a place for themselves already. It's going to be healthy competition and interesting to see how it pans out.

On India’s poor T20 international ranking:

I don't think we've been very good while batting first in T20 cricket, and defending low totals as well. So, those are two things that we really need to focus on.

Having said that, T20 is a format where you experiment a lot more than in ODI or Test cricket. And, from that point of view, you take a lot more risk in terms of what you want as a team.Yes, you want to give chances to youngsters...that's happened predominantly in T20 cricket. So, you can't really pinpoint where we stand in the rankings...And, say that's actually a reflection of how the strongest XI for India in T20 cricket has played. Because we haven't played the strongest XI together for many games, which is the case in ODI and Tests and you see the difference that it makes.

“We'll probably be playing as close to the XI we want in the World Cup as possible for the remainder of the T20 games we have leading into the World Cup. So, I think our performances should improve drastically from here on in.”

So, we had that mindset, that we're not going to worry about rankings. For us, it's about figuring out who are the players who can make a transition into international cricket firstly. So this is a good format to take a look at them. But now heading into the World Cup, rankings are going to be irrelevant because in T20, anyone can win on the day. We need to take our best team onto the field. I think our combination is getting stronger and stronger.

We'll probably be playing as close to the XI we want in the World Cup as possible for the remainder of the T20 games we have leading into the World Cup. So, I think our performances should improve drastically from here on in. As I mentioned, two things we need to work on are batting first and defending low totals. It's always good to have challenges as a team. That's something we want to overcome as well if we want to be a complete side. Because for winning a global tournament, you need to have all bases covered. We are looking forward to that.

On having two wrist and two finger spinners in the squad:

Having two wrist spinners is a big advantage when you're playing in Australia on big fields. There might be some games where both might play together but in T20 cricket, it's all about balance. Predominantly, we see one guy (wrist spinner) playing with (Ravindra) Jadeja and Washi (Washington Sundar) because it gives us all kinds of variety in the bowling attack — along with the two seamers and the all-rounder, the seaming all-rounder.

So you need to have six bowling options in T20 cricket, that's the basic rule. You can't go in with five expecting everyone to bowl four good overs. It gets very difficult as a team after a while. I think that is the balance that we need to create.

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Two wrist spinners, as I said, there might be opportunities for both of them to play together, and we'll see how that can be worked out. But, bringing Jaddu (Jadeja) back in as well, we feel he's batting really well — he's probably in the best batting form of his life - He's a proper finger spinner, very accurate as well and in the field we don't have any doubts on him. So, I think this is really Jaddu’s best phase as an all-rounder and we want to maximise that. And, Washi has been brilliant with the new ball also. So, we're very happy with how our options are placed. It all depends on what we need to take on the park, according to which game we're playing.

T20 cricket is all about being flexible — in where people bowl, where people bat — there won't be a set pattern. The combination or the eleven might be similar but there won't be a set pattern as to 'this is how we're going to go'. We have to be unpredictable.

On the possibility of Sanju Samson making the playing XI and if there is a concern regarding the batting order:

I won't be able to tell you who'll play, and in which capacity. But, we don't think we have any problem with our batting order now. I'm back in the team and the responsibility to bring control in the middle order is on me. The other batsmen will be able to express themselves and play freely. This is the meaning of batting in partnership - one or two control the batting the rest can play with strike-rates of 170-180. In T20s, the numbers 4, 5 or six are irrelevant. One batsman has to play the long innings and the rest can play around him with their power-hitting - be it chasing or setting totals.

“When you say it's the player's responsibility to work hard, perform and do all those things, I agree. But, I think it's the collective responsibility of everyone around as well to give that player some space to do so as well. If he (Rishabh Pant) misses a chance or something, people can't shout MS is in the stadium. It's not respectful, if I have to put it that way. No player would like that to happen.”

I think we need to focus on that aspect. We have been talking about batting spots for a while but it eventually depends on the performance on the field on that day. Doesn't matter who scores the runs, be it No. 6 or Rohit as an opener or Shreyas in the middle order. One person has to take the responsibility for batting long, that is a good template for us to follow in T20 cricket.

On Rishabh Pant's performance so far:

We certainly believe in Rishabh's ability. When you say it's the player's responsibility to work hard, perform and do all those things, I agree. But, I think it's the collective responsibility of everyone around as well to give that player some space to do so as well. If he misses a chance or something, people can't shout MS is in the stadium.

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It's not respectful, if I have to put it that way. No player would like that to happen. If you're playing in your own country, you should get support rather than always thinking what mistake is this guy going to make. No one wants to be in that position. As Rohit rightly pointed out as well, he needs to be left alone, we know he's a match winner and once he comes good you will see a different version of him - which you've seen in the IPL already because he's free, he's relaxed there, he feels that there's a lot more respect when it comes to his ability and what he can achieve for the team.

I think Rishabh needs to feel that a bit more around him. He can't be isolated to an extent that he gets nervous on the field. If you want him to do well and win matches for the team, all of us collectively need to make him feel like he belongs, and we're here to do things for him rather than against him.

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