Reasonably satisfied despite not being able to force victory on the final day of the third Test against Australia on Monday (March 20), Virat Kohli said the softness of the ball, more than anything else, had prevented his bowlers from having a bigger say at the JSCA International Stadium.
Trailing by 152 on the first innings, Australia slumped to 63 for 4 before rallying through a century stand between Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb to come away with a draw. “The wicket didn’t disappoint us. Obviously, the way the wicket is expected to break on days three, four and five, it happened, but I think the hardness of the ball was a very big factor,” the Indian captain said. “Yesterday evening when the ball was hard, it was turning a lot faster, even this morning it was doing so but in the second session it was not so hard, so to generate pace off the wicket becomes difficult for a bowler. When you get to a fifth-day wicket, as it is the pace becomes lesser. After that we tried with the second new ball, got a couple of wickets but in the middle session, the hardness of the ball was a factor.
“But I don’t want to take any credit away from their effort,” Kohli added of Marsh and Handscomb. “They batted very well. Four down by lunch, and after that they didn’t lose a wicket in the entire session. So credit to them, when someone plays well, you have to give them credit, we understand that. But we are also very happy with our efforts. (Ravindra) Jadeja’s bowling was outstanding in this match. All the bowlers bowled very well but Jadeja in my opinion was the standout. If you look at his economy, on this pitch it was high-class bowling and he showed why he is the joint No. 1 bowler alongside (R) Ashwin.”
The issue of the hardness of the ball triggered the question of whether Ashwin, who only took two wickets in the Test, could have been bowled alongside Jadeja first up on the last morning. Ashwin only bowled one over before lunch, though he had two five-over spells and a four-over burst in the middle session.
“We wanted to choose ends as far as spinners are concerned. We wanted to give Jadeja a longer go (from the Media End) because he was hitting the rough consistently and the ball has to spin back into the batsmen. If you see right-handers or left-handers, from the rough it was always attacking the batsmen,” Kohli explained. “That’s one factor we used. It depended on who’s bowling from which end, not which bowler has to bowl from where. Sometimes, one bowler bowls more in a Test match. A lot of times, Ash has bowled plenty of overs in a game and the others haven’t. You know, roles are always reversed, it’s not such a big factor for us.”
Explaining the rationale behind the manner in which he used Ashwin, and ruling out any concerns regarding the offspinner, Kohli went on, “There’s nothing wrong with Ashwin, there are no problems as such. You obviously want to choose ends – fast bowlers from the Pavilion end were more effective and the spinners were more effective from the other end. Obviously we have to understand where the game is placed, and what bowlers you want to use. Whenever Jadeja came on to bowl, he picked up a wicket every two-three overs. It was very difficult to change him at that stage because he was bowling in good momentum. That was one of the factors. In the second innings, he (Ashwin) bowled quite a few overs, we bowled him from both ends. It was difficult for the bowlers to generate much from the pitch. Jadeja, you can leave him aside in this game because he really stood apart among all the bowlers. But I think in general, the bowlers found it quite difficult to make things happen from the centre of the wicket. The key was to keep trying and that’s what Ashwin does always and he put his best efforts in both the innings.”
On Ashwin and Jadeja’s workloads:
“We have got to see how many games we want to play them in terms of the shorter formats and going forward if we have a hectic season, because they are very valuable Test bowlers for us. That is the only way you can manage workloads because during a game, you can’t think of the fact that he bowled 3000 balls in the season and I need to make him stop. Because if you want to win a game, you need to push guys. It is different formats when they arrive — that is where you can manage workloads and you certainly want to look into it. We have done that in the past as well. And that’s certainly going to be followed in the future because you need to maintain a core group of Test bowlers that you need all the time and it is not a difficult thing to do.”
Ashwin and Jadeja have both bowled more than 4000 deliveries in Test cricket this season, a number that took Kohli completely by surprise. “How many, how many?” he asked, in disbelief, “I did not know, that sounds a lot! We have got to see how many games we want to play them in terms of the shorter formats and going forward if we have a hectic season, because they are very valuable Test bowlers for us. That is the only way you can manage workloads because during a game, you can’t think of the fact that he bowled 3000 balls in the season and I need to make him stop because if you want to win a game, you need to push guys. It is different formats when they arrive — that is where you can manage workloads and you certainly want to look into it. We have done that in the past as well. And that’s certainly going to be followed in the future because you need to maintain a core group of Test bowlers that you need all the time and it is not a difficult thing to do. But yes, one should be aware of that.”
Smith had indicated that the draw was as good as a win for Australia, and that going into the final Test, the momentum would be with the visitors. “Conditions were such in the first innings that it wasn’t easy for the bowlers, the pitch was very good,” Kohli said. “It played very well in the first two innings. In the second innings, they batted well, so it ended in a draw. But where we were in the first innings, 451 was the score and we were 320-odd for 6, from there to make 600 was a very difficult task. We put ourselves in a position to win, so we feel it was a very good effort to get into a winning situation.
“But then again, if you are playing against the No. 2 side, you will expect that they will come out and fight, not just roll over. Everyone has his point of view. We will look at our positives and we are happy with where we brought the game to after just one innings. We didn’t need to bat in the second innings. But they had to play for a draw. Like I said, they will look at their positives, we will look at our positives and move forward. There is still one match to go, both teams will give it their best.”