Ganguly: Kohli’s captaincy, India’s bench strength stood out
Virat Kohli has hailed the professionalism not just of his team but of the cricket set-up after the sweet 4-0 series win against England. Constantly India had to chop and change in this series because of injuries, but the players coming in fitted in seamlessly. India started out with two of their three openers injured, lost one of them again, lost their pace spearhead and firefighting wicketkeeper in the middle of the series, but never missed any of them.
“Whoever comes into the team he knows there is a certain benchmark for fitness in the team,” Kohli said. “Of performance. Of mindset. We want players to be match-ready when they join the India team. You shouldn’t be spending a year in international cricket just learning what to do now. You lose a lot of time in that. And many players can’t face that pressure. But if you are prepared, if you are professional, if you know you have to work hard, if you know how to prepare for a game, you have a better chance of performing.
“Like KL Rahul. Like Karun Nair. You can see their performance for yourself. Especially Karun. Replacing a batsman like Ajinkya [Rahane], who has been performing consistently in the last two years in Test cricket. To walk in and score a triple-hundred, there couldn’t have been a bigger statement. It shows that the next generation will keep getting smarter looking at others, learning how it is done. What we need to do when we reach the Indian team. It is just evolution. It is sometimes surprising looking at these youngsters, how quickly they pick things up. They are very smart, and it shows on the field in how they play.”
In this age of cricket throughout the year, it is near impossible for the national captain to keep track of all the talent in the country. So the support system around the India team has to be impeccable. Rahul Dravid, who was part of the eight straight away losses in India’s slump in 2011 and 2012, has played a not insignificant part in this series. Nair and Jayant Yadav were both groomed under him on A tours. Nair in particular left Kohli impressed.
“Karun, I haven’t seen him play too much first-class cricket,” Kohli said. “I’ve seen him play in the IPL against world-class bowlers. And he’s someone who has always showed character. He could pull the ball well. He used his feet, drive the ball well. At No.3, when the ball is swinging. Spinners, he’s very lethal. I’ve not seen anyone currently in India sweep so well against spinners. He’s just the complete package.
“It’s difficult to find guys like that, which have such character when they are batting and understand their game so well at such a young age. It’s important to back guys like Karun. We’ve always believed. He was always our No.1 choice as a middle-order back-up.”
As part of backing Nair up, Kohli was happy to delay the declaration on the fourth evening. “This guy is close to 300 and it doesn’t happen every day. It’s not like he is taking 10 overs to do it. He was hitting sixes, he was hitting fours, he was getting us a bigger lead. So it was a perfect scenario where he got us to a stage where we couldn’t have batted again and at the same time, we had enough overs.
“If the wicket was doing enough, then those overs were good enough. If we have five bowlers, we should be able to knock teams off in 90-plus overs. That’s exactly what we did. It’s all how you go about that particular situation. The good thing was Karun really stepped it up close to his milestone and he didn’t take too long to get there. So it gave us five overs yesterday.”
The end might have come swiftly, but the series win has been hard work. Unlike the one against South Africa, this was played on traditional Indian pitches and India had to come back from four lost tosses and playing catch-up in the first Test. “It’s a complete performance,” Kohli said. “From the time we were put under pressure in the first game to coming back and winning the next four Test matches. And coming from behind, all four games, we lost four tosses including Rajkot…and winning three games out of that is very satisfying. As a captain, I feel it’s a complete series for us. Everyone contributed at different times. Especially the lower-order contribution is something that stands out for me in this series.”
It’s been a complete year, except for a blip here or there, but Kohli said this was just a start. “As a team we have had a very good 2016 apart from two setbacks that I can point out,” Kohli said. “One would be the ODI series in Australia, and the second one the World T20. We won the Asia Cup, we won the one-day series against New Zealand in India, and we won all the Test series that we played. It’s been a memorable 2016 for the Indian cricket team, and that’s something I am really proud of.
“To be part of such a good year and such a good season, especially with the team in transition, is something we can be really proud of. But this is just the foundation that’s been laid for us to carry on for many years. It’s just the beginning. It’s nothing [compared to what] we want to achieve. It’s not even a tiny bit of that. We understand where we want to go, and hopefully the guys can keep putting this kind of effort and take the team where it belongs.”
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo