Kohli: ‘It’s priceless to have Ashwin in the team’

"Ashwin is a very keen thinker of the game. He likes to talk cricket. He gives balance with bat and ball. I would wish that he keeps nurturing his skill so that we can keep dominating Test matches as much as we can," Kohli said.

Virat Kohli 500th Test India v New Zealand, India captain

Virat Kohli was happy with the way Indians applied themselves to earn a memorable win in Kanpur.   -  AP

Virat Kohli lauded Ravichandran Ashwin for setting up the team’s win picking up six wickets in the fourth innings. The off-spinner, on day five, prized out Mitchell Santner with a ripper before dismissing Ish Sodhi and Neil Wagner to give India a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

Kohli, after the match, spoke to the media about Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Cheteshwar Pujara among other things.

Excerpts:

On Ravichandran Ashwin:

He's been outstanding for the Indian team. But if you see all the impact players in the world, he comes in the top three-four easily. There's no doubt that he's been bowling wonderful for the last couple of years. He works very hard on his game. He's a very keen thinker of the game. He likes to talk cricket. He understands the game very well. That shows in his batting as well. He understands the situation and plays accordingly. He knows when to get runs and when to play the situation out accordingly. So it's priceless to have a cricketer like Ashwin in your Test team. He gives balance with bat and ball. I would wish that he keeps nurturing his skill so that we can keep dominating Test matches as much as we can.

On New Zealand’s resistance in the first session, fifth day:

It wasn't much of a concern because we’d scored the extra 30-40 runs to bat them out of the game. That's what we planned to do. A target of 430 on a fifth day wicket is very hard. It is always challenging when two batsmen score runs also and don't get out. What I've learnt in few matches that I have been captain is that you have to have patience. If you get over-excited or keep on bowling in one mould then the game can quickly slip away. We had the luxury of having many runs today but in future if you might have a target of 300, you need to be more smarter in those situations.

Could New Zealand have batted out the day?

No. Having batted on that wicket — and all the batsmen will vouch for this — you could not have defended your way out of the game. On a wicket that spins and bounces, you need to put the bowler under pressure, disrupting his lines and lengths. That’s a strategy all batsmen will use on a wicket like this. It's very similar to a seaming wicket as well. Whenever you get the opportunity you want to get a boundary. We knew that it was impossible for them to be defending all day and we knew that the one odd chance will come. That's all you look forward to. You have to be optimistic in that particular phase when a partnership is going.

On the psychological advantage over New Zealand:

The first game of the series is very important. Whoever has the first win, they will go into the second Test feeling more confident. But it doesn’t mean that you can take things for granted, because we know that we’re playing a quality side. For them to show the resilience and the character that they did over the five days of this game, we know that we cannot afford to be relaxed at any stage. We got relaxed in phases in this game and they capitalised. They were on the mark throughout the game. And credit goes to them. They are a team that works really hard, I know that for a fact. They are very smart about their cricket and they believe in their abilities and that shows on the field. So we do have an advantage going into the second game, but we’re taking nothing for granted.

On the weather affecting the declaration:

It’s been a pattern in the past where we’ve focussed too much on the rain and we haven’t focussed on the game that much and we’ve lost Test matches. I remember one instance in Durban where we kept thinking it’s overcast and it might rain anytime, but it didn’t and we just lost focus on the game. (Dale) Steyn came in and bowled a spell of five wickets and we lost the Test match. We were in a very good position. So we have stopped focussing on those things. We play according to how the game is going and not how the conditions will turn out. Two days back there was a forecast of it being partly sunny, partly cloudy and it rained for two hours. You can never predict those things. Today, it was cloudy in the morning but our focus was just to get those six wickets and not to worry about the rain. If it happens it happens, it’s not in our control. But we want to focus on what we can do on the field and look to execute that to the best of our abilities.

On captaining Ashwin-Jadeja:

I like the fact that both of them, when they feel like we are trying too much as a team, tell you: ‘I’m trying to bowl to this one plan and let’s see how that goes’. As a captain it always gives you more assurance that both these guys obviously know what they are doing and they are going to pitch the ball in the right areas.

But at times, when they are tired, they are not able to think as clearly – then they need a reassurance. It doesn’t matter how good a skill you have or how much you’ve played, you still need that reassurance at times, especially during the game. Because that’s when a session can quickly go away from you. It’s the right balance.

On Cheteshwar Pujara:

He is someone who absorbs the pressure really well but after a certain stage in the innings there comes a time when the team needs runs. We felt that he has the ability to capitalise, it was just about conveying that to him. He has worked hard on his game. He scored at a good strike-rate in the Duleep Trophy. Even on this wicket he was scoring at 65, almost 70. It was a revelation to see Pujara bat that way. He used to bat that way initially., especially at home. If you see his double hundreds against England and Australia, he dominated spinners. That’s exactly what we wanted him to do. We didn’t want him to go into a shell. He has not told us this is my comfort zone and I am not going to get out of it. That is the kind of characters we need to win games and series.

On Ashwin providing the option of playing four bowlers (instead of five):

We know Kolkata is a much better batting wicket, so we can afford to play an extra bowler there. But it helps that we have two good pacers as well. The two crucial wickets by Mohammad Shami in the second innings and Umesh Yadav’s wicket (of Martin Guptill) in the first were very important.