Chennai: The top-ranked Indian Test team is on a roll having triumphed in five straight series under Virat Kohli but the captain insists his side will have to keep winning consistently for the next 7-8 years to leave a mark on the world stage.
With the win in the Mumbai Test, the Kohli-led team secured the five-match series against England and the emphatic performance came after India got the better of New Zealand, West Indies, South Africa and Sri Lanka in the previous rubbers. Asked about the air of invincibility surrounding the team ahead of the fifth Test starting on Friday, Kohli replied in the negative.
“Not really, we still understand we have got to play a lot of cricket everywhere in the world. It’s not only about this one period we are going through,” said Kohli.
“It (the phase) looks really good because we have come out of transition and immediately started winning games. But I wouldn’t take this as overconfidence.
“As I said, it’s an ongoing process which needs to be sustained for the next five-seven or eight years for us to become a top quality side and leave a mark on world cricket maybe known as one of the best teams to have assembled on the field.”
Kohli asserted that focus is on doing well in all formats and not just Tests.
“We want to do it across formats and make that mark for Indian cricket on the world stage. But it requires a lot of persistence and skill, lot of hard work on your fitness and those are the key factors which will decide where we go as a unit.
“We don’t feel invincible to be honest, we respect every opposition, we admit every time we are put under pressure, and we know teams are going to put us under pressure. We appreciate that, we accept that and we try to find a way out of it.
“I think that’s been the key for us and as I said it’s a process that should go on for another seven-eight years,” said the skipper, who has played an important role in the team’s success. Talking about the dead rubber beginning on Friday, Kohli said the match remains an important one for the hosts.
“I don’t think we are looking at a collective series as 4-0. For us every game is separate from the other and the intensity and the motivation to win a Test match remains the same, whether we have won the series or haven’t won the series, or it’s drawn.
“We are not looking at a scoreline as such. We just want to continue what we have been doing. It takes a lot of hard work to win a Test match and to put a number to it, I think it would be unfair to the players and the series as well,” Kohli added.
The Indian spinners led by Ravichandran Ashwin have not just delivered with the ball but have also made valuable contributions with the bat, allowing Kohli to play five specialist batsmen and as many bowlers. In the media interaction, Kohli again showered praise on Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and rookie Jayant Yadav, who scored a hundred in Mumbai batting at number nine.
“Their contributions with the bat have been outstanding. Hasn’t taken much from me at all to motivate them. I think Ashwin has set a benchmark for the other spinners to contribute with the bat as well.
“Jadeja has come of age with the bat in this series, we saw his knock in Mohali, where he went out with lot of confidence and scored 90 runs for us. Jayant Yadav as well. He gets inspired seeing Ashwin the way he improves his cricket every time. Jayant always has been a keen learner.
“All the fast bowlers as well. Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh (Yadav) have become so much better with the bat and they understand the importance of those runs.
“So as a captain it gives you more freedom to play five batsmen rather than thinking of another batsman when your bowlers contribute 120-130 runs in every game for you,” said Kohli.
Kohli said Jayant’s approach reminded him of the great England spinner Graeme Swann.
“Jayant, what he has done, he has come in and has his plans. Has a lot of control as well and he rushes the batsman. If you saw the way he got his wickets in Vizag he rushed Stokes, in Mohali he rushed Root where he got LBW.
“So he doesn’t give much time to react after the ball has pitched and he has those revs on the ball and the strength in his shoulder to keep pitching the ball in the right areas and not give you too much. I think Graeme Swann was very similar, the way he bowled.
“The pace control was magnificent without giving the ball too much air and that’s why he was so successful. That’s what I see with Jayant as well.
“So as a captain I know that the third bowler is one against whom the batsmen cannot independently go after and that brings him into the game at any stage whenever you want a wicket, Jayant is always there on the spot, making things happen and creating doubt in the batsman’s head,” said the star batsman who himself has been in top form in the series amassing 640 runs in four games.
Kohli’s knock of 235 at Wankhede was a treat to watch as he piled on the runs without taking any risk. He hit only a single six in the 511-ball innings. Kohli said he did not feel the need to play aerial strokes.
“It has been a conscious effort (to curb the six hitting instinct). Many times I felt like I can go after the spinners but I understand that I need to go in that extra hour or two hours for the team. I don’t feel the necessity to hit sixes, it is just an excitement of the batsman crossing 150, 160, you feel like expressing yourself.
“But then I realise that if I am scoring at 3 or 4 an over without trying to hit the boundary, I can rotate strike and do that for the team. I don’t necessarily need to take that big risk at any stage and cost the team some momentum,” he said further.
Kohli also praised the opposition players especially Joe Root, who is tipped to replace Alastair Cook as England captain. He, in fact, backed Root for the captaincy job.
“Joe is an outstanding player. I have been very fond of the player and the way he goes about things, he is very positive, always thinks of any situation as an opportunity. I don’t know what captaincy would do to that (approach).