Virat Kohli highlights the mental challenge for ‘outplayed’ India
Accepting mistakes committed by his batsmen is becoming a norm for India captain Virat Kohli. For the second Test in succession Kohli admitted the batsmen had failed, including himself on this occasion, and that is reason India were “outplayed”. But despite the disappointment he also spoke of the motivation to keep the series alive by winning at Trent Bridge next week.
“We’re certainly not thinking of anything else, but to go 2-1 up in the series and from there on build on that strongly,” Kohli said. “Because this is the first time in the last five Tests that we’ve been really outplayed.”
Although Indian fans will now fear this Test series is moving along the same lines as that of the nightmarish tours in 2011 and 2014, when India lost 4-0 and 3-1 under the captaincy of MS Dhoni, Kohli insisted his team were not weighed down by the past. With only five days to go before the Nottingham Test, Kohli stressed his players ought to take on the challenge at Trent Bridge head on.
“We need guys putting their hands up and saying ‘give me a tough situation, I’m going to pull the team out.’ It is all in the head. It is nothing to do with the game,” he said. “You can play well in any condition if you are mentally ready for it. And that’s something we need to work on over the next four or five days. We should want the next Test match to come early rather than thinking, ‘oh, we have five days till the next Test match comes on.’ These are small little things that make a massive difference.”
Asked to put a finger on where exactly the India batsmen had failed, Kohli underlined the absence of partnerships in the second Test as an example. The seventh-wicket stand of 55 between R Ashwin and Hardik Pandya in the second innings was the only one that was fifty.
“We haven’t been able to have partnerships which is the basic rule while batting. We haven’t had any sort of partnerships in this game. Only 50 with Hardik and Ash in this innings. Nothing of any substance before or after that. That is something that we really to focus on. Stringing partnerships, making sure we get 60, 70, 80 run partnership and try and build that into a big partnership or have three or four small, little partnerships of 60 or 70 odd and put this team in a strong position.”
Kohli encouraged his players to break play into small periods and not look too far ahead, especially when conditions are challenging. He said India needed to compete as they did at Edgbaston where they lost by 31 runs after being on even footing until the final morning.
“When you start the game, you obviously think positive, you feel like you are ready for the game. Every batsmen thinks that. It is when you are out there in the situation which is tough you have to find ways of countering that situation which I think we have failed to do as batsmen, myself included in this game.
“When you look too far ahead, thinking the score isn’t enough or there are wickets on the board, that can pressurise the batsmen. But if you are focused on adding five runs at a time or building that partnership slowly but surely that’s how you come out of a difficult situation. It’s something that you have experienced in the past as well. For that you need to find ways of doing it.”
After Kohli’s outstanding double of 149 and 51 in the first Test, India’s next highest score in the series is Ashwin’s unbeaten 33 in the second innings at Lord’s. The top order looked all at sea against the moving ball and reliant on Kohli for a substantial total, but he said he also fell below his own high standards at Lord’s – albeit troubled by a back problem on the fourth day.
“I’m the first one to come out and accept that because unless you accept your mistake you can’t improve on it,” he said. “And you can’t get better and have a chance of competing in the next game, if you want to level the series and win the games. We definitely have to accept what we did wrong.
“There’s no hiding from the fact that mistakes have been made. We’ll have to accept those, put them on the side, learn from them and make sure that we’re not thinking about the same mistakes again rather get more confident and get ahead of the mistake and not repeat it again. That’s our immediate focus heading into the next game.”