A tendency to detach himself from individual landmarks is the secret behind Virat Kohli‘s staggering collection of international hundreds.This was the Indian captain’s own assessment when asked if the pursuit of 100 international centuries – a feat that only Sachin Tendulkar has managed – spurred him on to big scores consistently.
At 28, Kohli already has 47 international hundreds. Thirty of those coming in ODIs, only Tendulkar has more. None of Kohli’s contemporaries – Steven Smith (28 international hundreds), Kane Williamson (26) and Joe Root (23) – are within striking distance of his record. Among current batsmen only AB de Villiers (45) comes close.
Kohli felt putting team goals ahead of personal statistics helped take the pressure off him. In other words, the runs were an inevitable upshot of his batting long enough to see the team home. “I don’t play for the three-figure mark maybe that’s why I end up crossing it more times, because I am not thinking about it,” he said on the eve of India’s first ODI against Australia.
“So I don’t put myself under pressure in terms of ‘I need to achieve a landmark’. For me what’s most important is to win the match for the team. As I said before, even if I am 98 not out or 99 not out, I don’t mind, as long as I win the game. In that process, things end up happening because you want to stay till the end.
“If there is enough runs on the board, you end up achieving those landmarks, because you are thinking of that end result, not about you reaching that landmark. Whatever time I play – eight years, 10 years, 12 years whatever it is – I will never think of that because it just doesn’t come to me naturally. For me what’s most important is how I can help the team win with the bat and in the field, giving my 120 percent every time I step onto the field and preparing accordingly.
“That, I think, is more important to me than the personal landmark, if I end up achieving it. They feel good afterwards because, yes, you have scored runs and made the team win but you can’t start of thinking about [such] things because you lose the ultimate goal, which is to win the game for the team.”
India have been vocal about experimenting with their combination in the run to the 2019 World Cup. One such rejig has led to KL Rahul batting at No.4 after playing as an opener in six of his nine ODI innings. After vice-captain Rohit Sharma spoke about the team’s versatility on Friday, Kohli reiterated the need for his men to adapt to different requirements.
“I think, if you look to bat in the position that you bat in one format in all the formats, then it can get very difficult for the team to find the right kind of balance including that player,” he said. “So I think players need to adapt to what the team requirement is more often.
“For example, I’ve opened in the T20 cricket as well. So I would do that any day if there is a guy in the middle order who is going to strengthen [the batting]. So, I should be flexible enough to do that. I think it’s up to the player to get versatile in a manner that he can take up different positions what the team requires him to do.
“It takes time. I am not saying it is easy. If you see Jinks [Ajinkya Rahane] as well – he has played in the middle order in the ODIs, he plays in the middle order in Test matches. He’s also opened a lot in ODIs as well. He also felt that he found it difficult to switch. Now, we’re backing Jinks at the top of the order. So he knows his plans are clear. So, once you get that balance, with giving that player more chances, then he gets more confident of his role in the team.
“Till then obviously, Manish [Pandey] is there as well, Kedar [Jadhav] is there as well. So there’ll always be competition for a particular spot. KL is an outstanding talent. He’s proved himself in all formats. And he is someone that needs to be backed. Because we believe that he has the ability. Once he gets his role done, he’ll start winning us games. We’re very sure of that.”
Kohli also felt that playing two “proper” allrounders was the way forward in international cricket. According to him, India had a solid pair of seam-bowling and spinning allrounders in Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja or Axar Patel. “You need depth in batting, you need depth in bowling as well. I think those two allrounders provide that kind of balance to you,” he said. “That’s why we have someone like Hardik or Axar in the team. Or Jadeja… he is a proper left-arm all-rounder.
“You need to identify at least two of those guys for your side to have more strength in both the departments. That’s something that all the sides around the world are going to move towards. Because of the strength it gives you in both departments. Along with the guy being a top fielder as well, that’s very, very important. You need a proper allrounder and not a bowling and a batting allrounder. That’s something we have focused on. It has paid good dividends in the last series as well and that’s something we will look to continue.”
Kohli was also encouraged by the performances of wristspinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav against Sri Lanka. Chahal and Kuldeep were particularly effective in the middle overs and finished the series with five and three wickets respectively at less than five runs per over.
“It is a great advantage to have two wristspinners in your team, especially when both are so different to each other and both can pick up wickets in the middle overs,” Kohli said. “That is the most important thing in one-day cricket. You can have as many dot balls as you want, but if you can’t pick up wickets, you can go for 10-12 runs an over.
“It is important to keep picking wickets and have breakthroughs throughout. Those two guys have provided that to us and they are very confident coming into this series. They are in a zone where they don’t mind getting hit as long as they pick up 3 or 4 wickets, which I think is a very good space to be in and it’s something that gives me as a captain lot of confidence.”
Kohli was pointed to the high-scoring nature of the 2013 series, where there were five totals in excess of 300 in six matches, and asked what the bowlers could do to restore parity.
He responded by saying the bowlers shouldn’t be blamed when the pitches are that good for batting, but conceded that they could be “smart in patches” to keep things under control. “Look, if it is happening on both sides, then obviously you have to understand the wickets are really good to play. And, even saving 10-15 runs can actually make a difference.
“You don’t need to start of thinking you need to bowl out a team for 250 or 260. If the wicket is good to bat on, then you are setting expectations that could not be achieved. You need to be realistic on how many runs can be scored on this pitch and how many can we give less for us to get an advantage when we bat.
“The game is moving so rapidly that even in Test cricket runs are scored at four an over without losing too many wickets. The skill level of the batsmen has changed according to how the game is moving on so quickly with T20 coming on. The effect of that is going to be on the other formats as well. I don’t think you can pressurise the bowlers too much in that regard. But, where the situation of picking up wickets [arises] and [when] they have assistance from the pitch, you will see low-scoring games as well. Yeah, the two new balls, especially in the subcontinent, make it difficult for the bowlers to get wickets at regular intervals.”
Source: ESPN Crickinfo