Indian skipper Virat Kohli, ahead of the third Test against England starting Wednesday, was full of praise for his team’s openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, who he believes have been ‘outstanding’. The second and third highest run-getters in the series respectively, Rahul and Rohit have put on opening stands of 97 and 126 in the first innings in this series thus far, and have laid the perfect platform for the rest of the order to cash in.
While at Lord’s the opening stand helped India post a healthy 364 on the board, at Trent Bridge it helped the visitors take a significant first innings lead.
Kohli lavished praise on the duo and hoped for them to continue the good work in the games to follow.
"The opening combination, when you are playing overseas, is one of the most important factors. So, the way KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma have played, has been outstanding and we hope that they continue in the same manner,” Kohli said at the press conference on the eve of the third Test.
"To set out the right platform from where the team can build on and that is what they provided us in both the Tests so that is definitely a big boost for us," a pleased captain said.
Not just the openers, Kohli was also full of praise for the ever-rising Mohammed Siraj, who took 8 wickets at Lord’s. Kohli insisted that Siraj’s meteoric rise has not surprised him, and claimed that the Australia series provided the right-armer with the confidence he needed to raise his game to the next level.
"I was not surprised at all (with his growth) because I have seen him from close quarters. He is a guy who has always had the skill. You need the confidence to back that skill, the Australia series provided him with that boost and confidence," Kohli said of Siraj.
"He is walking around knowing he can get anyone out at any stage and the belief in his game has been elevated to another level, hence you see results of what he is doing.
"I am really happy to see him coming into his own, he is going to be this kind of bowler, who is in your face and who is looking to get guys out and who is not scared, he is not going to take a backward step,” Kohli added.
India fielded four seamers at Lord’s, leaving out Ravichandran Ashwin and opting for Ravindra Jadeja as the sole spinner. Headingley has historically favored pace, but when asked about the bowling combination, Kohli said that the pitch is not as spicy as he expected it to be, and insisted that he and the management will wait till the last moment to take a decision.
"We were quite surprised to see the pitch the way it was, honestly I did not expect it and I thought there would be more grass. Anything is possible, we name a 12 and on the day, we have a look at the pitch, accordingly, we will go in with the right combination."
For once the spotlight is not on Kohli heading into a Test, with Joe Root’s questionable decision making at Lord’s occupying the headlines. Root’s tactics on the final day - to bounce out the Indian tail-ender - beggared belief and eventually came back to haunt the hosts, who lost the match after being in a commanding position post the first 30 minutes of Day 5.
Asked if rival skipper Root is under pressure considering the mistakes he made, especially when he could not get Indian tailenders Shami and Bumrah out in the second innings, Kohli backed his counterpart.
"I don't know what an individual mindset is? You can make mistakes and planning at any given stage of the match, it does not necessarily mean you are under pressure.
"You just take a decision, which in hindsight was not correct. As captain, you always try to make the right decision and I am sure he was trying to do the same...if it's not right you take it on chin and move ahead as he did," he said.
(With PTI inputs)