‘Pujara, Rahane showed why they’re India’s best in Tests’ – Kohli
Virat Kohli has called India’s series-levelling victory in Bengaluru the “sweetest” of his 16 Test wins as captain. Having lost the first Test in Pune and been bowled out for 189 on the first day at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, India came back to complete a 75-run win on the fourth day.
“For sure. Till now, this is the best one definitely,” Kohli said of the win in his post-match press conference. “I don’t want to say too much, because the game panned out the way it did, and there’s not much left to say. It was a quite emotional game for us, quite draining as well. Everyone got along together, we showed team spirit.”
Kohli also said Australia had been too focussed on taking his wicket – referencing Nathan Lyon’s comment after day one comparing it to cutting off the “head of a snake” and “then hopefully the body will fall away” – to the detriment of planning against India’s other players.
“A lot of people were talking about the head of the snake, but I think the snake did pretty well by itself, so it’s not just about one individual. I’m pretty happy if they keep focussing on the head of the snake, and the snake can sting from a lot of directions. I think some people need to keep that in mind, but I thought [this was] the sweetest victory for us.”
India’s comeback began on the second day, when they took six wickets and only conceded 197 runs to stifle the momentum Australia had built on the first day. Kohli was full of praise for his bowlers for their efforts.
“I think the first session on day two where we gave away only 45-odd runs [47 runs] and picked up two wickets when they could have taken the game away from us, I think that was probably the momentum change that we needed, and throughout the day we didn’t give more than 200 runs as we picked up six wickets.
“I think that for us was quite important, and something that you look for as a team. Someone has to step up and do the job for you. I think [Ravindra] Jadeja was outstanding in the first innings along with our fast bowlers. Their spell again was very, very good, relentless pressure from one end by Umesh [Yadav] and Ishant [Sharma] and then Jadeja picking up those wickets later on. Those are the kind of things you need as a team to change the tide that’s going against you.
“One thing is that we never stopped trying. We didn’t give in, we didn’t let the opposition totally roll over us, we knew if they didn’t get a big first-innings total, day three – end of day two and day three – is the best time to bat here and day four is going to be very difficult. We saw the first-class stats, and no team had chased 120 in the fourth innings, so we knew, once we get 150-plus, we have a fair chance to go at them, and eventually we surprised ourselves by winning by 75, honestly. I thought it was going to be closer than that.”
Kohli on KL Rahul: ‘The last three innings have been his best three innings so far’ © AFP
KL Rahul won the Player-of-the-Match award for half-centuries in both innings. These followed a first-innings 64 in Pune, and Kohli said these three innings were the best of the opener’s career, even better than his four Test hundreds.
“I think the last three innings have been his best three innings so far,” Kohli said. “And I told him this, ‘you’ll cherish the ones that you don’t get hundreds in, but they’re so valuable for the team and you’ll understand their importance later’. And that happens to every batsman.
“I think he’s in a very good zone. He wants to convert his own starts into big hundreds, which he has done in the past, but because it has been a bit difficult in the past with momentum not going our way, I think he’s stuck in really well. He’s shown a lot of character and I’m sure in the coming games he’d like to push that score forward and put the team into a more consolidating position. Hats off to the way he’s played. Young guy, big series, team up against the wall and he shows character, you know, three times out of four innings, so outstanding.”
Rahul’s wicket in the second innings was quickly followed by those of Kohli himself and Ravindra Jadeja. When that happened, India were four down and leading by only 33 runs. India wrested back the momentum and set Australia a target of 188 thanks largely to a 118-run fifth-wicket stand between Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane – the only century partnership in the entire match.
“You need two-three people to step up and take responsibility, and I feel that the partnership between Ajinkya and Pujara, in a situation where the momentum was against us in the series, was outstanding,” Kohli said. “In the last two years, it’s one of the top two partnerships, or maybe No. 1, because retrieving the lost momentum and giving the team the lead was a question of character, and they both showed why they are India’s best Test batsmen.”
After the first-Test defeat, India rejigged their combination in Bengaluru, going with an extra batsman and leaving out their fifth bowler. Kohli said India had been “shaken” after Pune and wanted the security of an extra batsman in their line-up, and that recent history at the Chinnaswamy Stadium suggested four bowlers would be enough.
“I don’t think [on India being a bowler short], because we knew the Bangalore wicket, since it has been relaid there have been only one or two bowlers doing the job. One or two bowlers have been getting a lot of wickets [in each innings].
“If you see this Test match as well, Lyon got eight in the first innings, then Jadeja got six, then [Josh] Hazlewood six and [R] Ashwin six. So I think one bowler has stood out, even in the first-class season we saw that.
“From that feedback, we knew that we had to play an extra batter just to strengthen up our batting a bit, because we were shaken up in Pune a little. And you need guys to have that bit of cushion. So when you put runs on the board in either innings, then obviously it helps the bowlers to come and put pressure on the batsmen. I think it was more to do with how the games have panned out here and that’s why we decided to go with that combination.”
“I think this was the kind of game we needed to sort of forget that hiccup in Pune and move forward again as a pack. Yeah the spinners have been outstanding and they will definitely look to back their strengths and dominate the home season as they’ve done so far.”
Talking about the third Test in Ranchi, Kohli expected the pitch there to be “slow and low”.
“We can’t do much about the Ranchi pitch, you know how it has always been,” he said. “It has always been slow and low, they know exactly what to expect there and we know what to expect as well. It’s how you mentally prepare, mentally what kind of zone you’re in as a team.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo