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Virat sums up ‘outstanding’ home season

India captain proud of the season gone by, aims for consistency overseas

It has been that kind of a tour, a tour full of emotions that have gone up and down along with frequent momentum shifts. Tempers flared, new controversies brewed but at the end of it all, it was India who kept their nerves at place and clinched the series 2-1. The series win marked the end of a huge home season that saw India clinching 10 wins out of 13 Tests. The Indian captain was proud of his team’s effort “We have been playing good cricket all season and especially in the home season we dominated all of it. It is a very proud moment,” he said.

“It was very important for a young side to build a team for the future. For that we had to put up consistent performances which we did in this whole season. It was important how we responded to difficult situations. The credit goes to all of them especially the support staff, whose role is not highlighted. This is a team effort, rather this is a squad effort because it involves everyone.”

Thought not physically a part of the final Test in Dharamsala, Kohli was happy his side could outperform Australia given the circumstances. A shoulder injury kept him out of action but he had no complaints whatsoever after having clinched the series. “Well, I jerked my shoulder four times yesterday celebrating outside. So that’s how much energy I had and I couldn’t sit in the change room,” he said. “If it was a strain injury it would have been different, but impact injury really gave me no options. To start a game at 50% was not fair on the team. That’s the kind of person I have always been and I’ll continue to be.

“It was difficult watching from the outside when you have been in the thick of things all the time for past so many years and seasons.But the most pleasing thing is when you see guys taking the responsibility in your absence and actually going out there to play one of the best ever Test matches that as a viewer you can see. I would call myself a viewer out there., I really enjoyed it. It was not easy to not play this game, but at the end of the day sitting here and having won the series, I have no complaints.”

Though having regained the numerouno status in Tests, Kohli believed the actual Test began when the team went overseas. “It is a classic case of understanding that this is not the end of anything. No need to get over excited with whatever we have done. We are very happy with number 1 ranking in the world, but our main challenge begins now.

“If we can conquer the overseas season, that’s when you will see a broader smile on my face when I sit down for the press conference. To understand where we are placed and the kind of cricket we have played, and where we stand as individuals at the end of season, it makes me very happy as a captain.If you want to win more Test games, you have to have complete team performances. It’s the main reason why we are sitting here as the No. 1 team in the world and we are quite a fair distance above the other teams. That makes me very proud as a captain and all the guys in the change room are very happy with what they have been able to achieve and ending the season on a high.”

Kohli pointed out the fast bowlers’ performance as one of the reasons for their dominance in the season. He considered UmeshYadav as one of the most improved cricketers this season for the side and credited the rest of the pacers for the team’s success. “It is a very important aspect of our side. We have worked hard on the fitness levels of the guys over the past two years And it’s showing. When teams prepare only for your spinners and our fast bowlers come in and bowl those kind of spells, it can really shake the opposition and that’s exactly what these guys have been able to do.

Our fast bowlers have provided important breakthroughs and gotten rid of the main players most of the times. All the pacers have been brilliant, not just Shami & Umesh. Even Bhuvneshwar Kumar, given the opportunities has picked up five-fors. Ishant Sharma has been outstanding in West Indies, in Sri Lanka, whenever he has played. That’s probably been the one factor that has been the difference in our winning all these series compared to drawing a few games. We have been able to win more games than we have drawn or lost. That’s been probably one of the important factors in that.”

After pouring his praise for the bowlers, Kohli shifted focus to the batsmen and credited the top three for the fine starts and platforms they created during the season. “Cheteshwar Pujara has been very impressive in this series, but Murli Vijay has been a consistent opener for a while. To look at KL Rahul, the way he has played in this series, he’s probably not in focus too much, but to get six 50-plus scores, for an opener to be that consistent is tremendous.

“He will want to convert them into big runs but the impact he has had in this series, not giving early wickets to Australia, has been very very pleasing. These kind of series can build character and make individuals. This is one of those instances for Rahul. You will certainly remember him for a long time in years to come with the innings he will play. I think this is where he will make a start as an international recognised opener, probably one of the best openers India has had.

Anand Subramaniam
Anand Subramaniam

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Rahul confident of big score in second essay

India opener happy to be amongst runs, expects a big one round the corner

It was a very uncharacteristic kind of innings from KL Rahul. Often the one to take charge and score at a brisk pace early on, Rahul went into the defensive and weathered the Australian pace storm with poise. He ducked, attacked when need be and left alone deliveries with watchfulness. For Rahul, it was the most challenging morning session till date. “It has been a fantastic cricket wicket. I can say, is the toughest session I have faced in Test cricket so far,” Rahul said. “They put the ball in the right areas and they swung the ball, bowled with lot of pace and venom. There is something in it for bowlers and it will keep us interested in the 2nd innings when we go out there to bowl.

“When I was batting in the first session, my intent was to give the ball and the bowlers the respect and then come out in the second session and make some runs.”

Rahul was peppered with the short stuff and had a personal battle going on with Pat Cummins. There were a few stares and words exchanged, but Rahul relished the challenge. “The first session was really tough, was challenging for sure. Had to leave the balls outside off-stump, leave the bouncers, yeah I was enjoying it. I haven’t been challenged with swing and bounce, it was good facing Josh and Cummins when they were bowling with a lot of heart.

“Cummins was fast, he was accurate. This wicket is obviously helping them as well. The conditions were nice and cool, guess they could bowl longer spells and they didn't really get tired. You can say that he's been the guy who has, as a fast bowler, challenged us in this series.”

Challenge apart, Rahul tried to hook one of Cummins’ bouncers. This after he was set and had soaked in all the early morning pressure. Rahul later said, he rued his shot execution. “It was horrible execution for sure. But having batted out there in the middle for long time, I thought I could have taken him on as there were no fielders at the back. My intent was right. Hopefully in the second innings, I can get him away. So I will go out with a positive intent in 2nd innings again.”

Rahul has scored five half centuries thus far but yet to convert any of those into a big one. The opener believed a big one was just round the corner.

“I am obviously a little disappointed that I have not been able to convert the starts and get big runs for the team. As an opening batsmen, my responsibility is to spend as much time in the middle as I can, try and get big scores in the first innings so that we don’t have to bat in the second innings.

“On a personal front, hasn’t been a bad series for me. I got starts, batted really well, enjoyed batted in the middle. The Australian bowlers haven’t made it easy. They have challenged us in all the games. Hopefully one good knock in the second innings might be the time. Might be the knock I have been waiting for the whole series.”

Anand Subramaniam
Anand Subramaniam

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