From a historic 3-0 victory in the Tests to a 5-0 whitewash in the ODIs, it has been a great few weeks for the Indian team in Sri Lanka.
While Virat Kohli and his men expected a challenge from the hosts, it certainly did not materialize as the one-dayers too were a one-sided affair.
Speaking on the series whitewash, Captain Virat Kohli said, “We're doing very well in Test cricket. In ODIs, we didn't win three games in a row before this. So, from the last game in West Indies to now we've won six, that's something that we wanted to address which we did in this series. We wanted to be relentless, we wanted to create good habits and make sure that we're challenging ourselves every time we go out on the park. And that helps you when you're going through difficult situations.
“I think that's one thing that we addressed before this series and it's really helped us come out here and play how we wanted to play and not let complacency get to us at any stage. Good habits are hard to create and once you create them and then if you take the game easy then the game will find out those things and sort you out on the park. We respect the game and that's something we decided to do all throughout regardless of what was happening otherwise.”
All through the series, Virat spoke of experimenting with the team combination and not being predictable as a unit. “We spoke about experimenting with a few guys going up and down the order. If you go out to play against India you know that there's going to be one pattern that's going to be followed. So, people can prepare. Once we start playing like this and get more confident with the roles that we're given then we can be more unpredictable and with the kind of talent that we have in the side, if we can be unpredictable as well, then it becomes a lethal combination.
“Teams will find it difficult to set a pattern against us and we'll always stay ahead of the game or at least try to, and often we'll end up executing those things. But it's important to embrace that change and the guys have done it. Some guys will perform and some guys won't - that goes in limited-overs cricket and it's not an alarming thing for us, we'll keep doing these things in the future as well before we reach the World Cup,” he added.
Jasprit Bumrah who was adjudged Man of the Series picked up 15 wickets in the five ODIs. Talking about his performance, Virat said, “Jasprit, obviously, he has been our most effective short-format bowler in the last 18 months. He has really worked on his bowling, especially his length ball has picked up more pace. That's very heartening to see because it never lets the batsmen get settled. It’s not only about yorkers and slower balls anymore. He can bowl a good length ball and nick you off as well, which I think is the biggest improvement in his bowling. Credit to him for shaping his game in that way. Getting a Man of the Series award in the subcontinent as a fast bowler, it’s always a great thing to achieve. He bowled in really good areas and he deserves to be the Man of the Series. I hope he can continue the same way against Australia.”
While Bhuvneshwar Kumar picked up a five-wicket haul in the 5th ODI and Jasprit Bumrah bagged the Man of the Series award, the spinners – Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal too had some great outings through the series.
“These guys were brilliant, all three of them. Axar Patel being a conventional spinner as well. He varied his pace, I think it was outstanding, he didn't let the batsmen get on top of him. That's a remarkable thing - when you don't have any variation in your bowling and you still don't let guys score - I think it's the height that really helps him getting that extra bounce and the extra pace he can generate. He's got a very strong shoulder and people find it difficult to sweep him. Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal being wrist spinners will always keep you in the game. I certainly felt that all three of them were pretty spot on with attacking all the time. It really helped us get those crucial wickets in the middle overs and at the same time helped us control the run rate as well,’ added Virat.
Experimenting with different combinations and winning series to get the combinations right is what the Indian captain is eyeing before the 2019 World Cup. “If within the next couple of series, we find the best combination for us, which is covering all bases and working well, and we find an eleven that is flexible enough to try different batsmen at different position or play bowlers who can bat a bit and things like that, then I think we are sorted, along with having the best fielding side on the park. I think that’s a balance that we need to create. We have a couple of big series coming up, so if guys perform in that then the mindset becomes different of taking anyone anywhere.
“I think the upcoming series will be very important for us to find the right balance as a team. It will be a milestone for younger players to gain more confidence and be a regular in the playing eleven that is more flexible. We don’t want to be predictable for sure, till the lead up to the World Cup and in the World Cup. We want eleven guys who can bat at any stage and bowl and chip in with overs at any stage,” he iterated.
With his 30th ODI century, Virat now equals former Australia Captain Ricky Ponting’s record with the same number and is only behind Sachin Tendulkar in the list. When asked about his consistent performances, Virat said he looks to perform as well as he can for the team.
“These things keep happening as you go along in your career. You don’t target these things, but yeah, those stat windows are hard to neglect because they pop up everywhere after you’ve achieved something. It’s an honour for me to pass… or equal someone like Ricky Ponting. That’s not something that you aim for but obviously, he’s a great player and as batsmen we all respect what these legends have done. It feels like to equal one, but as you said the great man is quite a bit away. That’s going to take a hell of an effort. Again, I am not thinking about that. It’s only about the team where even if I score a 90 not out and the team goes across the line, it’s good enough for me,” added Virat.