LONDON: The defeated Indian captain Virat Kohli is optimistic that his side can compete in challenging conditions in Australia despite a crushing 4-1 defeat to England that compounded a disappointing away record in Tests.
England wrapped up victory at The Oval on Tuesday, winning the final match of the series against the number one side in the world by 118 runs late on the fifth day.
But despite the comprehensive nature of the series defeat, Kohli took positives from the tour as he looked forward to Australia, where India have never won a Test series.
“What matters to me is the kind of attitude you play cricket with,” the Indian captain said. “We said at the end of the fourth game that we won’t throw in the towel and we didn’t.
“This kind of series shows you exactly the kind of character of individuals and I see that as an opportunity and not adversity because if you keep winning all the time a lot of faults are swept under the carpet, you don’t realise the faults you need to work on.”
Kohli, who was top-scorer on either side in the series with 593 runs, said India had created pressure at various times in England but had not capitalised on key moments.
“We were not able to hold that pressure for long enough with the bat and the ball as well, so at crucial stages we could not keep that pressure on for long, and that is why they took advantage of those situations better than us,” he said.
For all India are the world’s top-ranked side, they have now won just one of their past nine series outside Asia.
But a number of factors are in India’s favour for their Australia tour.
They boast arguably their finest-ever pace attack and will face a team still without the banned Steve Smith and David Warner and with fitness doubts over their bowling attack.
When asked if he was confident about the four-match Test series, which starts in December, Kohli talked of the strides the team has made.
“The progress has been there... we need to recognise when the situation is in our favour and how to solidify that situation even further, and make sure that the opposition cannot get back in to the game,” he said. “More often than not [against England], we have given the advantage to the opposition rather than them brilliantly turning around a situation.”
And Kohli spoke about the need to compete from the first ball of the series.
“We can’t warm up in to a series because the first Test is always crucial, and we need to make sure we are in the right frame of mind to be able to do all the things right to strike first,” he said.
Kohli further stated the England series had revived Test cricket.
The final scoreline was harsh on the world’s top-ranked Test nation who played a full part in an unpredictable series full of twists and turns, right up to the final day.
India lost a memorable final Test — a match that will be forever remembered as the farewell of England’s most-capped Test player and run scorer Alastair Cook.
Cook’s century on Monday was the highlight but India made sure the series did not end in anti-climax thanks to an audacious chase of 464 for victory.
A superb 149 by opener K.L. Rahul and a scintillating 114 by 20-year-old wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant, including 15 fours and four sixes, meant from a hopeless position of two for three on Monday, India began to dream of a world-record run chase.
It was not to be but Kohli, who averaged 59 in the five Tests, scoring two centuries, said his team did him proud, picking out Rahul and Pant for special praise.
“Credit has to go to both those young guys for stepping up on this stage. From three wickets down, it take guts,” he said. “That was an example of two guys not giving up and entertaining the crowd.
“This is probably the revival of Test cricket and shows what it means to us, a great advert for Test cricket.
“We didn’t speak about the result, we just wanted to go out and see what happened, waiting and watching, things can change very quickly. That’s the beauty of this format.”
While India were thrashed at Lord’s the defeats at Edgbaston, Southampton and The Oval all could have gone the other way with little between the sides.
“Definitely think we will sit down and think about, if we had taken those opportunities, we missed quite few,” he said.
“When both teams are going for wins, you can have a result that looks like that [4-1], they don’t go for draws.
“You hardly have any draws in these tense series and that’s what the scoreline shows. I’m not saying it wasn’t a fair scoreline, because they played better than us, but we can take a lot of heart and apply lessons to how we play Test cricket.”
Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2018