The conversations around India’s middle-order has been a recurring topic of discussion especially when the team is touring in tough batting conditions. Since the start of 2021, the Indian middle-order (No.3, 4 and 5) have returned with the second-lowest batting average (29.4) in Test cricket despite boasting superstars in the lineup.
In between the three, they have 16 been half-centuries since 2020 but just one century, which has become a point of concern, with the averages dropping down to mid-20s. Kohli insisted that despite the muddling form of the two vital players – Rahane and Pujara – their performance at the Wanderers, in the second innings on a tough surface showed their batting quality.
The Indian skipper added that the two raise their hand up in crucial junctures for the national team, as witnessed time and again, in Australia, England, and now South Africa.
“Well, I cannot pinpoint on when we would talk about transition (in the middle-order). The game naturally makes it happen, if you look at the last Test, both Jinx and Pujara played very well, that experience is priceless,” Kohli spoke about the transition in the middle-order in the pre-match press conference.
“Especially in series such as this, in tough conditions, these guys will always step up with impactful performances, we saw it in Australia as well. Crucial knocks at crucial juncture, which has a lot of value. Transitions happen naturally and conversation cannot be forced and it is what I feel,” he added.
“If the transition happens, the team knows which direction its moving and not force anything to happen.”
Kohli on taking India to No.1 in Tests
Reflecting on the tough passage of journey for the national team, Kohli stated that the team had to build a culture back in 2014, something that has helped them in the long journey of becoming the No.1 Test side in world cricket.
“We all look back at that phase where it is hard to believe (India becoming No.1 Test side) to look at the time I became the Test captain, we were seventh in the world,” said Kohli. “We can’t believe that now, we are No.1 for four years now, obviously, I had to lay down a vision, something that people could follow. I knew that I will have to play with a very high intensity to drive this passion and motivation and take the field with utmost optimism.”
The Indian skipper insisted that ‘passion, commitment alongside madness’ was key in helping India get out of tough situations and not just strategical thinking.
💬 💬 It’s been a collective passion and commitment of the whole squad. #TeamIndia captain @imVkohli on how the side has worked over the years to have good bench strength in the pace attack in Tests. 👍 👍#SAvIND pic.twitter.com/4P19Ffaw3D— BCCI (@BCCI) January 10, 2022
“We have such a good group of pacers that we can’t figure out who we should play. For us as a team, it is a factor of confidence and we take such a pride about that today. Test cricket is where it is because of our pacers, otherwise this dream/vision won’t be possible,” he added.
As witnessed in the recent past, the core belief of the group to be tougher, intense and committed to the longest format has resulted in building a successful culture. Kohli insists that the mindset has spread its way into the future generation of crickets, resulting in India building a prolific pipeline of success.
“People are looking at ways to make impactful performance on the field. That can only happen if you have immense drive and commitment towards winning Test match. Yes, we might be beaten or outplayed, it is our will to find results that keep us all going.
That mindset has spread to the squad, it is something that the next generation is aware of. Anyone who is not on the same page could find themselves in a weird space. Everyone knows what it takes to be in this team right now.”
Kohli on KL Rahul’s leadership
Rahul’s debut stint as the leader of the Indian side resulted in a loss but Kohli insisted that the Indian stand-in skipper had put the right foot forward in attaining a positive result. He reaffirmed that South Africa ‘batted really well’ to get the result in the end on what was a tough surface to bat at the Wanderers.
“KL was very balanced in the second Test as a captain, plans and field placements were right,” said Kohli. “They tried the best to get wickets and breakthrough. I think the situation was that South Africa batted really well and I don’t think we could have done anything better. Intent is always to get a result, to win the game, I think he did a good job.”
The Indian skipper also looked back at missing the second Test with an upper-back spasm, stating that he felt ‘guilty’ missing the crucial encounter. But he added that with international cricket’s calendar being rigorous, it is often tough for cricketers to play a long stretch of games.
“I did feel guilty, like how could I get back spasm, I have been playing a lot of cricket in the past. Workload definitely is there, training days, gym days and travelling days, all of this accumulated. In the past, I have got spams during the Test but never before the Test.
“So, when it happens before the Test, it is really painful. You will have to look at it from a human perspective, injuries and niggles are part and parcel of the sport,” he concluded.