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Features and Interviews

Dhoni’s trust and experience helps: Virat

India’s top-order batsman also talks about improving and reinventing himself

India’s top-order batsman also talks about improving and reinventing himself

He is only 24 years old, but with 116 ODIs under his belt, Virat Kohli is emerging as the strongest pillar in the Indian batting line-up. He has often rescued the team from difficult situations and helped shape the innings like he did in the third ODI against Australia. The No.3 batsman made crucial 68 runs and was involved in a 72-run partnership with skipper MS Dhoni that helped stabilise the tottering Indian innings. He displayed skill and confidence as he negotiated the Australian attack led by Mitchell Johnson during his 73-ball knock.

The top-order batsman has played some magnificent knocks in challenging situations to pull India out of trouble on various occasions. After the game caught up with the batsman in an effort to understand what makes Kohli, Mr. Reliable. He also discussed how he counters challenges like he did today.

Excerpts from his interview:

India came back after the early loss of wickets to post a 300-plus score. What was your strategy to negotiate Mitchell Johnson?

He was bowling pretty quick but I was pretty confident about my preparation before this game and my feet were moving well today, so I just decided to back my game and take the situation up front and not let the scoring rate go down too much, because that could have cost the team some important runs. And then MS Dhoni came and we started to string in a partnership; so the strategy was to stay positive. And whatever balls I get to hit for a boundary, I will go for that but keeping in mind that it has to be low risk and we have to put up a decent partnership.

How do you manage to adjust so quickly? Is it form or self-belief or skill?

I like to improve my game every day. I like to go in and analyse the situations – what the team needs at that point of time, how I am batting at the point of time and what I can contribute to that situation. So it’s all about analysing in the middle how to go about that particular situation, because that’s how you improve as a cricketer and you want to get better every day. So that’s what I strive for. That’s something I always have in mind, to learn as much as I can when I am playing in the middle. Because you can watch the game, you can talk to people, but the most you learn is while playing and with experience. So that’s what I try to do and try to play accordingly.

Does having MS at the other end, or knowing that he’s still to bat, help the confidence?

I always have fun batting with him because he is one guy who knows the one-day format probably better than anyone else, be it finishing, be it playing in the middle overs or taking the team out of trouble. He knows everything; he is pretty experienced and now he trusts me as well to take responsibility along with him. So it’s quite a bit of fun because we think alike when we are batting in the middle, to make big partnerships, to rotate the strike regularly. So its lot of fun where we don’t have to say much but we understand what is needed. It’s a good combination in the middle when I am batting with him.

What would you say about Dhoni’s 139-run knock today?

We have seen quite a few of those from him when the middle-order hasn’t come through and a set batsman has got out and he has batted with the tailenders taking the team out of trouble. It is a great skill that he has playing with the tailenders; something that is very difficult to do. Something that we saw VVS Laxman do a lot in Test matches, which I think is a commendable effort. And today’s innings was very special.

Sourav Ganguly and Matthew Hayden have said that Virat is the best batsman in Team India. Your thoughts?

It is a big compliment coming from both of them. It is all about when you are in the zone just making the most of it and just trying to stretch my run as much as possible and score as many runs as I can for the team. And if people think that I am a responsible player, if people feel comfortable in the dressing room when I am playing out in the middle, then that is all I need. These kinds of compliments help along the way and always keep you focused to improve everyday and get better.  

Can you elaborate a little more on what it means to get into the zone?

When you are not in the zone you think about a lot of things; what the opposition is trying to do to you, what their plans are, what kind of field they are setting rather than having your own set plan. Being in the zone for me means being confident about my game and just having the ability to tackle any situation and have my plans confirmed in my head rather than thinking whether they are going to bounce me or are they trying to get me lbw; I just rather watch the ball and pre-plan or I have plans to score to a particular bowler. So when you are in that zone, you think about your plans rather than focusing on what kind of bowling is going to be thrown at you.

How much has self-confidence propelled you to your current stature as the most reliable batsmen in the Indian team?

I think the two-month break has helped me a lot. When you are playing on the run it is very difficult to take time off and relax yourself. But these two months I have managed my time well and I came back and told myself that even if I have couple of failures, I am not going to think that it was too much rest for me, because I know how important it is, especially as an Indian cricketer, to get that kind of rest. So I came back mentally fresh and stronger. I trained hard in those two months as well. I took a bit of time off. It is all about clearing your head, clearing thoughts and going out and backing yourself.

How different was Johnson at Jaipur and here?

The wicket was different from Jaipur. In Jaipur the ball was coming on to the bat beautifully; today in the afternoon it was bit two-paced. In the second innings the ball went through nicely for the fast bowlers but in the afternoon it was a bit two-paced because there were patches of grass and patches of dry surface. He is a quality bowler. He is the highest wicket-taker from their side and he bowls about 150 kmph, so it’s always a good challenge playing against him and you get to know where you stand playing against a quick bowler when he is coming at you swinging the ball. I enjoy the challenge.

Features and Interviews

Played with bowlers’ minds: Dhawan

India opener reflects on historic run-chase; lauds Rohit and Virat

India opener reflects on historic run-chase; lauds Rohit and Virat

What looked like a mountain, the Indian batsmen turned into a molehill as they scaled the 360-run target with 39 balls to spare against Australia. Although they do have one of the strongest batting line-ups in world cricket and are the No.1 ODI team, India had never chased down a 300-plus total against the team from Down Under. But their top three batsmen rewrote the books as they took apart the Australian bowling attack to set new records and level the series 1-1 with five games to go.

Shikhar Dhawan (95 off 86), Rohit Sharma (141* off 123) and Virat Kohli (100* off 52) lit up the Sawai Mansingh Stadium with fireworks in the second ODI at Jaipur adding to the celebrations of the festive season. After the openers, Dhawan and Sharma, put together 176 for the first wicket to keep the hosts in the hunt, Virat Kohli joined the latter to take the team across the line with an unbroken 186-run partnership for the second wicket.

While speaking to later, Dhawan, who has been decimating attacks since early this year, spoke about playing with the bowlers’ minds and partnering with Sharma. While discussing the innings, the 27-year-old from Delhi showered high praise on Sharma and Kohli as he discussed the historic run-chase. 

Excerpts from his interview:

What was the plan when you came out to bat?

We just went in with the thought that we are going to play ball by ball and just get us ourselves set first rather than just going and hitting and trying too many things. So we just took our time, and then once we got set, we played our shots and played with the bowler’s mind.

How did you plan and pace the innings?

(We planned to) just play on the merit of the ball and just see what the bowler is doing and what we can do to see them. And so we were thinking about that and then, Rohit and I, both played beautifully and then we gave a very good start to our side.

What do you do when you say you play with bowlers’ minds?

Of course we work on it in the nets. It is like when the bowler is bowling, we can tell what line he is bowling or most of the time he is going to bowl that length. So if I am not comfortable to hit it from there and if I need a boundary, then I like to step out some time or do something different. So it makes the bowler think that the batsman is going to do something. It’s just to disturb his mind and make him bowl something else, which he doesn’t want to.

You step out to fast bowlers as well, and after taking apart the Australia attack on Test debut even today you played in a similar manner

It is a good feeling, especially this game since it was a very big target for us. Mitchell Johnson has got pace and I like to make use of it. And the other bowlers are not that quick, so I thought that I can step out and adjust to their pace and play my shots. So that’s what I did.

What was the discussion at half-time?

When we came in, (MS) Dhoni Bhai said, ‘Treat it like a normal game, we don’t have to play rash shorts just play the way we play and play ball by ball.’ And that’s what we followed.

It seemed like Rohit Sharma and you were keen to finish the game yourselves

I wasn’t thinking about that. But we wanted to bat as long as possible and make that partnership really big; and it was good to score a 150-plus partnership. It was a good feeling. Unfortunately I got out on 95. I would have loved to score a century, but that’s alright. It’s part and parcel of a game and hopefully with the grace of God I will score it in the coming games.

Can you talk to us about the partnership with Rohit Sharma?

We are both very comfortable with each other and know each other’s game. Sometimes he plays aggressively and I step back and play the anchor role and vice versa. So the flexibility is good between us. The good thing about Rohit is he is technically very sound; we both are technically sound that gives us an extra edge. Because when you are playing against the new ball, you need your basics to be really strong.

What is it that you tell yourself while going to chase such a huge target?

I just told myself, ‘It’s not a new thing for us.’ Earlier also we have chased big totals. So we hoped just to play our game, take our time and (then after we settle) attack the bowlers, which is more sensible than rushing things. So enjoy and not take too much pressure.

When they dropped your catch did that give an edge?

For sure, I was praying for them to drop it. It went really high and after that I started. I analysed what shot I should play. When you are chasing such a big score, you have to take risk. But at the end of the day you have take it smartly; that is the key.

Your thoughts on Virat Kohli’s knock

It was amazing to see Virat’s knock and to see him score the fastest century by an Indian. And I have also learnt lots of things from him. He is young and so mature in his batting. So of course I will learn from him. It’s amazing.

And it was amazing to see Rohit’s innings too. He was playing well in the Champions Trophy but he couldn’t really get a century. But over here he got it, so I felt really happy for him.