‘They didn’t outperform our spinners’ – Kohli
India’s captain Virat Kohli was impressed with his team’s tenacity as they fought back to draw the first Test against England in Rajkot having trailed it for the majority of the contest. With just two defeats in 18 Tests under Kohli’s leadership, India have rarely been faced with the challenge of saving a game, especially not on home soil. In the circumstances, the captain felt they had adapted well and learnt new skills.
The pitch affording substantial turn and bounce on the final day, with Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali and Zafar Ansari bowling accurately enough to merit five or six close catchers. All this meant the lower-middle order just about managed to get India to safely.
“Well, at least we know how to draw games now,” Kohli who made 49 not out in the second innings, said. “Before that, some people obviously were skeptical about our side knowing how to draw games. We won games or we lost games. I spoke with [Ravindra] Jadeja out there that it was an opportunity for both of us to improve on another aspect of the game.
“Maybe in Test cricket in the future, we will have this situation again. Maybe we will have to apply ourselves again and show character, so have the intent to get runs in between but play percentage cricket, figure out areas where you want to take ones or hit boundaries, but at the same time, be sure of your defense as well. So, it was a challenging situation but one that we counted really well, I thought.”
Vital to India not falling too far behind was R Ashwin. His first-innings half-century afforded England a lead of only 49 after they had put on 537. Then his 14.2-overs’ worth of fight with Kohli in the second innings steadied the hosts after they were four down with at least 25 overs left to stumps.
“We looked at it as an opportunity for us to know how to play in this situation,” Kohli said. “The best learning is in the game. You can practice all you want in the nets, but only way you know how to make runs is when you understand how they are done.
“When you are put under pressure, if you bat out the innings, if you play a draw, then you understand as a team when you need to switch gears and trust your defense and slow the game down. Those things are very important to learn as a Test side if you have to be consistent over a period of time and not just a shot in the dark.
“We took the opportunity and that’s why you saw Ashwin and Jadeja applying themselves really well. Otherwise, there would have been a lot more panic if you did not look forward to the situation. It is very important to want to be there.”
When asked to explain why he chose five bowlers Kohli began by expressing his thoughts on the pitch. “I was quite surprised to see that much grass, to be honest. It should not have been the case.
“Secondly, I thought Ashwin was batting really well, he scored a lot of runs for us this year, so also Saha. Those two are confident, plus it’s Jadeja’s home ground. So we backed him to get a few runs for us. That gave an opportunity to play Mishra, an extra spinner. So at least, we had all our bases covered.
“With five batsmen, we ended up getting close to 500, and even batted out the second innings as well. Again, it gives us belief as a batting unit. So, going ahead, we can still play an extra bowling option and keep putting pressure on the opposition. It was something you can look forward to it or feel that you don’t have an extra batsman and go into a negative mindset. I think the guys applied themselves very well.”
Adding to the theme of learning was DRS. In the final innings, Cheteshwar Pujara was lbw to Rashid off a leg break that pitched outside leg stump. He did not take the review, and when he walked up to his partner for a consultation, M Vijay’s body language suggested he thought it was out too.
“One thing I saw was it’s very important for non-striker to stay as close as possible to the stumps,” Kohli said. “From a little wider from the stumps, the line of the ball is never judged, you always feel like that the ball is straight but it’s actually pitching outside the line. So that’s what we spoke about, it’s important to stay close to the stumps, keep figuring out where it’s pitching and be more aware to help out your partner.
“That might be an important thing in a Test match in an important situation you might not take the DRS like today with Pujara. Those things can be corrected. With DRS you can only do what it in our control and that is to be precise and as aware as possible. Obviously you’re going to make mistakes, the umpire’s call and all that come into play as well. I think it’s a good thing, it just confirms the decision that has been made and it’s good for cricket overall.”
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo