For the seventh time in succession, the coin landed in Virat Kohli’s favour. By the end of the day’s play, the Indian captain had also ensured that his century drought at home for 44 months and that for the series from both teams was over with a textbook example of a traditional Test hundred.
On the eve of Madhya Pradesh’s maiden Test, Kohli had attributed lack of a century from both the teams in the first two Tests to “good bowling and bad shots”. Saturday saw him digging it out for four minutes shy of five hours without playing a single false stroke.
Only twice has India featured in a hundred-less series featuring three or more Tests. Both the instances were against New Zealand at home, in 1969-70 and 1995-96. Kohli’s innings assured it was not to be repeated this time around. His hundred – scored in front of the biggest crowd turnout for a Test in India since Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell Test in November 2013 – also set an example set for the rest of his team-mates on how to not throw away a good start. Cheteshwar Pujara couldn’t agree more.
“See, Virat played a very good innings,” said Pujara, who added 40 runs with Kohli before being dismissed by a gem from left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner.
“It is true that there wasn’t a century scored. But there were a few scores over fifty. Overall, Indian team batting is doing well. From the top order to the lower order batsmen, they are also getting fifties. That means all are performing. At the same time, we are all aware that one batsman from the top six should get a hundred. It is a landmark. Ultimately, we got that landmark today. So we are aware about it but still once you get fifty-plus runs, it is still a good score.”
Strike rate improvement
Thanks to former chief selector Sandeep Patil’s claim of he and captain Kohli having had a word with Cheteshwar Pujara about the need for the No. 3 batsman to up his scoring rate, Pujara’s strike rate occupied a lot of newsprint over the last three weeks.
While Kohli confirmed having discussed the issue with Pujara without going much into the details, head coach Anil Kumble stood firmly behind the batsman, dismissing the issue as “strike rate matters for bowlers in Test cricket, not batsmen”.
Pujara himself said he is aware about playing “with intent”. “This issue has become slightly big now. But the message was to play with intent,” he said.
“When it comes to Test cricket, we don’t need to focus much on strike rate. It’s about having a positive intent. Overall, on such wickets, obviously you can’t keep scoring runs at strike rate above 70-80. You have to play according to the situation, know what the team requires, what number you’re batting at. Depending on all circumstances, you have to bat accordingly.”
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