Have goals to achieve in England: Virat

Indian batsman determined to make a mark on his first Test tour to England

Ever since returning to the Test team after being dropped in 2011, Virat Kohli has been India’s most prolific batsman across all formats. What stands out in his yet flourishing Test career is that Virat has scored a Test century on all his three overseas tours so far – in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. Now the ever hungry batsman is determined to conquer one of the toughest frontiers in Test cricket – England.

“England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand are the four places that the subcontinent players want to perform at and I too have it on my mind,” Virat said ahead of the first Test in Trent Bridge.

“I will be playing a Test at the Lord’s for the first time. All in all it is a very exciting tour for me personally. I have some goals that I want to achieve and I have been thinking about them. Hopefully things will fall into place.”

With Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat forms the backbone of this young Indian batting lineup. And he said the two are aware of what is expected off them.

"I think it is more important what we expect of ourselves," Virat said. "Obviously people will expect things when you start performing, but you can't focus on that. Because then, firstly you put pressure on yourself, and secondly you drift away from what you want to do. If you think of what you expect from yourself, you stick to your plan. We'd rather stick to that.

"Obviously we realise that we both have performed consistently in Test cricket. We want to keep on going like that. Cheteshwar has been brilliant for us at No. 3 and a really solid player. Gives us that feeling of calm. Him and me have got some good partnerships that have helped us get into stronger positions in Test matches. We both realise that, but we aren't thinking too much into those things. You can't plan for things unless you are batting in the middle and you are set. And then you can dictate terms. Once you get going you start to think about that big partnership that changes the course of the game."

India’s current squad wears a totally new look compared to the one they brought to England in 2011, when they suffered a 0-4 whitewash. Virat believes it is time to put the three-year old disappointment behind and focus on the future.

"Three years down the line, we have a totally new side. It's a very exciting time for us because most of us haven't played Test cricket here. It'll be exciting for us to experience the conditions and everyone's eager to go out there and see what it's like.

“We've heard a lot from senior players of how it's one of the best places in the world to play Test cricket. You get full crowds, everyone's involved in the game and everyone knows the game, so it's an exciting time for us.

We don't want to think about the negatives of 2011. Obviously, we'd like to do well in the series. It's not about washing that [2011] off, erasing those memories. That will stay in the history books, whether we like it or not. All we can focus on is the new series we have here, and put in a strong performance which would be a starting point for this young team to go ahead and be a good quality Test side."

Shifting the focus to the opponents, Virat said the recent series loss to Sri Lanka doesn’t make England any easier as opposition.

“You might say that after losing to Sri Lanka they will be low on confidence but one way to get out of that situation is to come out and express yourselves without worrying about the results. We don’t know what they are thinking – they might come out all guns blazing or would still be pondering over the Sri Lanka series. You never know until the first ball of the Test match is bowled. As far as our team is concerned, we are very well prepared and we have very good ideas about how we want to execute things in the middle.”

He, however, felt that the hosts will miss the services of Graeme Swann. “He was one of the key bowlers for England because as a batsman you knew that even if you play the pacers off, there was a world class spinner waiting to bowl at you. His absence will be a key factor for England.”


Broad wants more from seamers

Asks fast bowlers to take more responsibilities in absence of Swann

Fresh from the heartbreaking 1-0 defeat at home against Sri Lanka, England have regrouped for a long and important Test series against the visiting Indians. Not having won a single of their last seven Tests, Alastair Cook and his men are under a lot of pressure this summer.

Speaking to the press ahead of the first Test, at Trent Bridge, Stuart Broad said the fast bowlers will need to shoulder more responsibilities against India, while also protecting themselves from injury and fatigue.

“It’s pretty hectic time coming up for us and it’s in the bowlers’ hands to bowl India out as soon as possible and get that rest,” Broad said. “If India score 400-500, it’s very difficult for the seamers to keep coming back and bowling. But if we restrict them to 250 or so, the workload reduces.”

“This series has five Test matches in a span of three and back to back Tests do tire you out. But it’s great as well because we’ll be playing against a fantastic team and we’ll be very well supported throughout. So, we are excited to play a lot of cricket in the coming weeks but we also have to take care of our bodies.”

Trent Bridge has been a happy hunting ground for England, where they have won eight of the last 10 Tests. Broad said starting the series at one of their favorite venues will be an advantage for the hosts.

“It is an advantage because we have got a really good record here. Jimmy Anderson’s record here in particular is fantastic and Ian Bell has scored plenty of runs here. That does give us the confidence but we also have many new players who haven’t played a lot of cricket here,” said the England pacer.

“So, we have to teach them from our experience about certain lengths you have to be careful driving at and how slips could be in the game often. A lot of such communication is going on in the change room.

“Also, in the Indian squad only Dhoni, Gambhir and Ishant have played Test cricket in England before. That is an advantage we have over India but having watched them in New Zealand and South Africa, their batsmen adjusted pretty well in conditions there and I think this is going to be a brilliant series to watch.”

Broad was worried about the recent change in the nature of the English wickets that has made them play slow and low. He said the dryness in the pitches would benefit India with two spinners in their ranks.

“Due to the new drainage system the wickets have now begun to dry out earlier than before unless you keep them very green, which you don’t in Test cricket,” he said.

“It is an issue we’re facing at the moment where the ball bounces three-four times to the keeper. I think a Test wicket should be flat because people come to see the runs being scored, but when the ball edges the bat, it should carry to the keeper – that’s the number one rule. The Lord’s and Headingley were the only two wickets we’ve played this summer and they both turned out to be very slow and low. If will be interesting to see how this series plays out. If the wickets are dry, India will be licking their lips with two spinners.”

While India have a decent spin resource, England are without one after the retirement of Graeme Swann. Broad admitted that the off-spinner’s exit has forced a change in the style of cricket that England want to play.

“Without Swann, we have to play a different style of cricket where the seamers take more responsibility between the 40-75 overs. I don’t think we are a 100 per cent used to it yet but we will get there. Also, although Swanny took wickets against India the last time, a lot of damage was done by the seamers with the ball moving sideways,” he said.

Broad reflected on India’s last tour to England, where the visitors lost 0-4 and said the current squad looks more settled than the injury-marred unit of 2011.

“On paper the Indian squad of 2011 series was phenomenal but what went against them was there were quite a lot of changes in the team where a lot of players went in and out.

“This team is a lot more settled for the last year or so. I know they have struggled a bit abroad but that hasn’t been because of lack of runs. They have a nicely settled batting lineup. They haven’t been able to take 20 wickets which is why they might like to play five bowlers. They are a great side. Even in the last series, India had a chance in a couple of Tests but we just won the key moments. We’ll have to do that again this time, something that we haven’t done in the last six months.”