Treated it like two T20s: Kohli
Hobart, Feb 29: Virat Kohli took India to a stunning victory with a breathtaking 86-ball 133 against Sri Lanka in a crunch game of the ongoing tri-series, earning the team a crucial bonus point. India’s place in the CB Series finals now depends on the outcome of the Australia v Sri Lanka match on Friday, but the improbable win is what has kept them in contention for the coveted spot.
In the post-match press conference, Kohli spoke about the India’s performance in the memorable match and in contrast, the disappointing tour.
On India’s chase
At the [innings] break we decided we needed a good start to be able to chase that total [321 runs] down in 40 overs and to get a bonus point, and so we did. We got a great start with the opening pair and then Gautam [Gambhir] and myself getting a crucial 100-run partnership after that set the game really well for us.
On whether the target looked too stiff at any stage
If you get those kinds thoughts in your mind, you are not going to achieve it so we always thought – look for one boundary an over and keep playing one over at a time and you never know; if you need 100 off the last 10 [overs] in a Twenty20 game, it is very gettable so we took it as two Twenty20 games. Probably get 120-130 runs in the first 20 and then go for it later on. That is what we planned and executed it really well.
On playing out the middle overs
That turned out that way […] because we have such a strong lower-order who can hit the ball on merit. We wanted to have wickets in hand and we decided to keep our Powerplay. Sri Lanka not taking their Powerplay really helped us because we knew that in the end with 10 overs of Powerplay with a small boundary, it is really going to be difficult to control [the run flow] on a good wicket. I think that decision also went in our favour.
On attacking Lasith Malinga
He is a difficult guy to get away so once you get on top of him, you make sure you stay on top because he is one guy [who can get the better of you]. They persisted with him even when he went for 24 [runs in a over] because they know he can get them a wicket at any point of time. [...] I was hitting the ball well and he was bringing it in and that is my natural release shot. [I] probably got the ball in the right areas because once you start executing the shot, it is not easy for the bowler to get yorkers right. I knew that he is going to go for yorkers because he needs wickets and if he doesn’t execute them, I have enough on hand. I had that on my mind but I stayed very calm at that point of time and I didn’t get overexcited. That’s the key if you want to hit some big shots.
On whether he made any adjustment to face Lasith Malinga
My natural movement is back and across so I don’t need to go too deep; I anyway go back in the crease. On these kinds of quick wickets you need your back-foot [to come into] play. You can rock back on your back-foot as quickly as possible, so I had that in mind all though this tour to Australia. [For] my initial movement, I have relied on that a lot.
On the transformation in his approach during the Australia tour
[It happened in] in Perth. The first innings in Perth I told a lot of people that I was thinking way too much about the things going on outside the field, like what was being written or said before the Perth Test. After that I just stopped watching news or reading any sort of articles and just told myself every day that I am good enough. I have scored runs at the international level [...] If I have a set gameplan, and if I think positive and I have strong mental preparation, there is no good reason why I cannot score runs at the Test level. That was the key to start believing in myself. The one-day team [members] all believed in themselves every game. Probably we were not able to execute what we wanted to properly and today was one of the days just to show everyone [that] this team can play like that at any given point of time.
On whether this was one of his best ODI hundreds given the situation
Yes, it has to be the best. Not just because of the way I batted, that too, but the kind of game we were playing and the kind of situation we were in, chasing 321 in 40 overs, this kind of situation happens probably two times in 10 games. It was a crunch game for us; we needed a bonus point as well so that’s a bigger reason for the way I batted. […] I am really happy about it.
On the wicket
I would not say it was not a good wicket to bat on; it was a beautiful wicket to bat on. Sri Lanka got a great score. [Tillakaratne] Dilshan batted really well. It was a good, true wicket but to chase that at probably at eight runs per over, sometimes ten-and-a-half runs an over, [is steep]. You need to bat well and we certainly did that as a team.
On whether the team took their mind away from cricket after Sunday’s game
I did nothing. I didn’t talk to anyone about cricket. I got a call from home and someone discussed [something] about cricket and I hung up. I said, ‘Please don’t talk about cricket and please don’t tell me to do it in the last game because I am not even thinking of it’. We were all staying as relaxed as possible because, to be honest, we had nothing to lose. This was one of those games for us, we had to give it our all. We just wanted to enjoy it as much as possible. It didn’t go our way in the first innings, but the way we batted in the second innings, I think it is going to lift the spirits of the team and the mood in the dressing room is amazing right now.
On putting a price on his wicket
Initially, when I went in to bat, I was not hitting the ball as well as I wanted to but I spoke to MS [Dhoni] after the last game and he told me, ‘On three occasions you have been hitting the ball beautifully and have got out on 20. Because you are hitting the ball well, you need to stick it in those tough areas when you get set. You might be vulnerable when you get casual and get out [as a result]’. He told me to just keep going in those situations because I was hitting the ball well and if I am playing well, I can make sure that the team is in a good position because of my staying there. I kept that in mind. I knew that even if I got my first 30 runs, [...] I didn’t have to throw it away.
On the team’s bowling being below par today
It was a good wicket to bat on. You can’t be that harsh on the bowlers. Everyone is trying out there. Everyone is trying to get wickets or stop runs. Dilshan played well and [Kumar] Sangakkara hit a run-a-ball hundred, which is magnificent. [When] two guys bat like that you really can’t do much on a wicket that is very good to bat on.
On deciding to consolidate and later, changing gears
Initially, I had planned to play the first 10 overs of Powerplay. Then the next five we would consolidate and run hard between the wickets and take our Powerplay assuming that they would take 15 to 20 as their Powerplay and from 20 to 25 we would take the batting Powerplay – but that didn’t happen. They didn’t take the Powerplay. The message came from the dressing room that we don’t have to take the Powerplay right now, just keep batting and keep wickets in hand. I told Gautam that I felt that I was pretty set now, feeling confident about myself, that I could go for it so he could keep playing and I would keep one end positive; [I asked him to] just hold one end up so we didn’t lose too many wickets. So we decided that. We were able to string in a 100-run partnership at a crucial time. It’s all about communication. When you are chasing that kind of total, one guy needs to be positive and one guy needs to consolidate and keep rotating the strike and that’s what we did.
On the bruise on his right shoulder
It was so bad that I didn’t want to throw it away. Two times I was almost [knocked out] [...] It felt like someone pushed me. I had only one game [possibly] left to play and there was not much room for being casual or lazy out there. You need to give it your all. Eventually, if you are able to get the result, that you did it is much more satisfying.
On whether the team were very keen to end the tour on a high, considering this could have been their last game
If this was our last match, it’s really important for Team India, after the kind of season that we have had, to have a win like this, especially in Australia. People were saying that we were struggling all throughout and to be able to win like this right at the end [was uplifting]. We hope we make it to the finals, but if don’t, we will take back a lot of positives from this game, just to look back and reflect on what kind of players we are and what kind of cricket we can play. This was just to tell each and everyone, tell ourselves, that we can play cricket like this and if it has to be our last game, we can take a lot of things from this and cherish [it].
On whether his innings today was an answer to critics
Critics are always going to be there. It is more about proving it to yourself [...] You take the team through; it’s more about that for me rather than silencing critics. Those sorts of things come later on; when you are playing in the middle, you don’t think after hitting a four, ‘Now I am going to silence critics.’ If you are able to get results, everything has sorted itself. Critics are always going to be there. As cricketers you are going to get criticised. It is part of it. You can’t think about that while playing in the middle but if you are able to perform for your team at any point of time, it is worth it.
On how difficult it would be to replicate such an attitude
We are going to think each game is the last for us and we are going to think of every game as a do-or-die one, if we reach the finals. We are going to be as expressive, I can assure you that. We are not going to think twice before trying to do something and not going to hesitate. If we do make it to the finals, we are going to play like we did today.
On whether he would watch the highlights after going to the hotel
I haven’t watched my batting again on this whole tour. I don’t know if it is [playing] on TV. We all sit together and watch [games], so if everyone decides to watch it, I will watch [it too].
On the need to relax before the finals, if they qualify for them
Sometimes before a game I have a few knocks, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes before a game I listen to music sometimes, I won’t. So it’s all about how I feel at that point of time. We have five days now so I might take two days off, go for a hit on the third day. Take another day off and have a hit the next day. It depends on how you feel; it’s up to the Indian team to prepare. Even if you go for practice, it’s not necessary [that] you do a net [session]; you can do whatever you feel like doing. No one can force you to do things but as a professional cricketer, you need to prepare yourself before a game. It’s up to the individual, I guess, [how he wishes to prepare].
On what kept them subdued for the duration of the tour and how difficult it was to make a comeback
It is difficult, to be really honest. It is mentally very tiring. When you are winning, you can stay on tour for five months, you won’t mind a single day, but when you are not doing well as a team, it is really difficult to hold yourself together mentally. Physically it is not that much of a challenge because you have breaks in between. But to hold yourself mentally is the biggest challenge for a cricketer and I won’t say I was not feeling mentally tired or very sad sometimes; but there is no running away from it. You need to get up and come to the field and give your hundred percent the next day. I have probably stored it in my system that you can’t run away from it. There is no second option and every time you are out there, you need to give your hundred percent, no matter what.
On what kept him quiet for three months
Sometimes if you are not playing well, and if you are committing the same mistakes, you tend to go into a shell, which is really difficult to come out of. But you need to take that extra risk, like we did today, to come out of that shell. Now I can tell you that we have and hopefully if we reach the finals, then you will see a totally different Indian team out there
On whether he was tired now
I feel a lot less tired now.