By Indian Cricket Fever
March 30 2017
Virat Kohli, the current Indian Test Captain, reflects on a record-breaking home season. The only other time India played as many as 13 Tests at home in a season was back in 1979-80 when it played two back to back 6-Test series against the visiting Australian and Pakistani sides and a one-off Test against England. Back then the captain for the Tests was the man handing the ICC Test Champion's mace to Kohli, the legendary Sunil Gavaskar. India won 4, lost one and drew 8 Tests back then. This time only two out of 13 Tests were drawn and India won 10 and lost one. How things have changed, and for the better, both for Indian cricket and Test cricket in general since then.
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.