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India's tour of England, 2018

Virat Kohli displaces Steve Smith as world's best

The Indian captain becomes the first Indian since Sachin Tendulkar in 2011 to attain the No. 1 spot in ICC's rankings for Test batsman
Virat Kohli (captain) of India celebrates his century during the third day of the second Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and India held at the Supersport park Cricket Ground in Centurion, South Africa on the 15th January 2018

Photo by: Ron Gaunt / BCCI / SPORTZPICS

Virat Kohli has achieved another personal milestone by becoming the seventh India batsman and first since Sachin Tendulkar in June 2011, to top the ICC Player Rankings for Test Batsmen, which were released on Sunday morning following the conclusion of the Edgbaston Test.

Virat scored 149 and 51 in India’s 31-run defeat and has gone up by 31 points, which have helped him to end Steve Smith’s 32-month reign as the top-ranked batsman and reach the top of the summit for the first time in his 67-Test career.

Virat now leads Smith (who had held the top spot since December 2015) by five points, but will have to maintain the form in the remaining four Tests to finish the series as the world’s highest-ranked batsman.

Tendulkar had joined South Africa’s Jacques Kallis in number-one position in January 2011, but had dropped to second spot following the Jamaica Test in June 2011 after he had missed the three-Test series against the West Indies.

Apart from Virat and Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Gautam Gambhir, Sunil Gavaskar, Virender Sehwag and Dilip Vengsarkar are the other India batsmen to have achieved number-one rankings during their careers.

However, at 934 points, Virat has become India’s highest-ranked batsman, 14th overall, on the all-time tally of points. He had entered the Edgbaston Test on 903 points, 13 points behind Gavaskar, and is now ahead of the ICC Cricket Hall of Famer by 18 points.

If Virat can deliver another strong performance in the second Test at Lord’s, then he can break into the top-10 by leapfrogging Matthew Hayden, Kallis and AB de Villiers, whose highest points tally was 935 each. Donald Bradman (961) and Steve Smith (947) are the two batsmen sitting on top of this exclusive list.

Virat, who powered India to the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup title in 2008 and then won the prestigious Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for ICC Cricketer of the Year in 2017, is the 76th player to top the Test batting rankings. He is also the number-one ranked ODI batsman, but is ranked 12th in T20Is, 220 points behind number-one ranked Aaron Finch of Australia.

The batsmen to lose ground after the Edgbaston Test include Alistair Cook 17th (down by four places), Lokesh Rahul 19th (down by one place), Ajinkya Rahane 22nd (down by three places), Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dawan, who now share 25th position after slipping two and one spots, respectively, and Ben Stokes 33rd (down by five places).

In the bowlers’ table, Stuart Broad and Mohammed Shami are the two bowlers inside the top-20 who have headed in the opposite direction. Shami is in 19th spot after sliding two places.

India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has gained 14 points following his four for 62 and three for 59, which means he now trails South Africa’s fourth-ranked Vernon Philander by just one point, while Ishant Sharma has collected 19 points to move within 13 points of 25th-ranked team-mate Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

The Test player rankings will now be updated following the Lord’s Test, which begins on Thursday, 9 August.

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My motive is to score runs & take Indian cricket forward – Virat

The Indian captain addressed the media on the eve of the 1st Test match against England at Edgbaston.

The much awaited and anticipated Test series is all set to commence tomorrow at Edgbaston where the World No.1 Test team will be at loggerheads with England.

The Indian team members have been in the best of spirits, and after having played a three-day warm-up game against Essex, the boys look all geared up for the challenge ahead.

The Indian Captain Virat Kohli who has been put on the hot seat, even before the team embarked on this journey, addressed the media and threw light on the mood in the Indian camp and the thought process going into the five-match Test series.

Here are excerpts from his media interaction.

On India’s overall preparations

Preparations have been good. Those playing in limited overs got lots of time to adjust, while those players who have come only for Tests got time to prepare well too. They played India ‘A’ matches and the practice game too was good. All of us are in a good frame of mind. Batsmen and bowlers are confident. We are all excited. This is a five-match series and not a two or three-match series, where if things go wrong in one match, desperation sinks in.

On the depth in Indian bowling

I think our bowling attack has matured over the years. They’ve gained experience of playing all around the world and understand conditions,
pitches and opposition batsmen as well. They are pretty comfortable with their games and that is pretty much what happens with the batsmen as well. Our bowlers have come a long way from the last time we toured all these countries. We are a more confident unit now.

On whether India would consider themselves as faovurites or the underdogs?

It doesn’t matter. Whether you are the favourite or the underdog, you still have to go out and perform and do well on the field. If you are an underdog, it’s not a given that pressure will only be on the opposition. Or if you are the favourites, it’s not certain that the underdogs will come out and be fearless the whole time. I think it’s the balance that’s required. We’ve played enough cricket to understand that these are things that happen on the outside. As a professional cricketer, you have to go out there and execute what you are picked for.

On the team selection

You always come up with situations when you're playing such long
seasons. Along with the management, you have to sit down and take a call. It
all boils down to your gut feel. If five people on the table agree that this is the right thing to do for the team, then we go ahead with it. There are no ifs and buts. If we take a decision today we're not going to sit down tomorrow and say, 'Oh we could have done that.' We don't act like that. The decisions are taken in the best interests of the team at that particular time; there's total honesty and total ownership all around the squad.

On whether the excessive chatter about his batting irritates him?

I don't know. Back in the day when I did not know better, these things used to bother me because I used to read a lot. But I genuinely don't read anything. I have no idea what's going on. After the first two Tests in South Africa, I had no idea what was going on. My only focus was on my preparation and where the team has to head. I need to be in the most convinced and the most clear mental space that I can be and that happens when I'm just focused on what I need to do. Very soon, I'm going to complete 10 years...I didn't think 10 years ago that I'd be sitting here in my career. So I have no complaints whatsoever and I'm not in the frame of mind to prove myself in any country. I just want to perform for the team, score runs for the team, and take Indian cricket forward and that's my only motive.

On leading a young side

That's something you need to constantly speak to the team about. You need to make sure that all the players and the management are on the same page. Especially, when you have a long series and you know it's going to be challenging. You cannot afford to have individuals who are drifting away with their mindset. We keep speaking about it regularly. To be among the 15 or 16 players picked for the country when there are so many cricketers, to have the honour of stepping onto the field to play for India...if we are upset about it, there's something wrong. We need to be excited about it, we need to take the good and bad equally and just be grateful for having the chance to represent our country and give our 100% and that's something we're going to be focused on this series.

Rajlaxmi Arora
Rajlaxmi Arora

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