It was a chastened Virat Kohli that spoke to the media after India’s stunning 333-run loss to Australia in Pune, in the first Test of a four-match series on Saturday (February 25). India’s two innings of 105 and 107 spanned just 74 overs in all, and Kohli had little doubt as to where the blame lay for the capitulation. At the same time, he stressed that the team’s mindset, which had been integral to an unbeaten run of 19 games before this one, wouldn’t change.
How is the dressing room mood, and are you shocked with the batsmen’s struggles against a left-arm spinner (Steve O’Keefe, who took 12 wickets)?
It’s fine. It’s just another international game. It’s no big deal. It’s how you should stay calm and composed when you win. You shouldn’t get overexcited. The same way you react when you lose, something that you take on the chin. We take failures and losses as an opportunity to learn. And the last time we had a performance like this (in Galle), we had the most outstanding run after that.
I would say that we needed something like this for us to get a reality check and understand what are the things we need to work on, and keep persisting with it, not take anything for granted at any stage, especially at Test match level. So, as I said, the batting let us down in both innings. I would say it was sustained pressure from the Australians, but that also depends upon how badly we batted in the first innings. That was the main reason why we couldn’t get back into the game.
The second innings was a case of us showing some intent and trying to get some runs. But when you have got a target so massive on the sort of wicket, as a bowler you can afford to get hit for ten fours and still come back and get one wicket and you are back in the game. So, I think the mindset changes drastically when you don’t have a good first-innings performance, especially in India. It was very difficult to come back from that. The batsmen need to pull their socks up.
“If you don’t grab your chances in the second innings, if you drop five chances off one batsman, then you certainly don’t deserve to win. If you get bowled out within 11 runs and lose seven wickets, you don’t deserve to win a Test match.”
Were the Indian spinners as disappointing as the batsmen?
Not really. I think the way we batted in the first innings, we put ourselves under a lot of pressure to be honest. Conceding a 160-run lead (155) on that kind of wicket is criminal actually. If we were close enough to their first innings total, the bowlers’ mindset would have been different in the second innings. The moment you give away 50 to 60 runs, the game is drifting away already. It’s very difficult to pull things back from there. Even a single run hurts from there on.
I would say our batsmen put us in that position where it was very difficult for us to come back into the game. I’m not blaming the bowlers at all. They tried their level best. Someone like Umesh [Yadav] bowling well in the first innings was great to see on a slowish wicket. They bowled in good areas, and put Australia under pressure. They were going well in the first innings and we pulled things back nicely. A few things we can take away from this game, from bowling aspect. Our batting wasn’t up to standard, and that’s certainly how we shouldn’t bat from here onwards. This is all I can say. I think the batting let us down.
How different was this pitch?
I don’t think it was any different from the turners that we played in the past. We just didn’t play good cricket. You can ask me any sort of question or any perception about the loss. We know exactly what happened, the mistakes that we made. External perceptions don’t matter to us. They have never mattered to us. We played good cricket, that’s why we won. We played bad cricket, and that’s why we lost [here]. That’s simply how we look at this defeat. We just want to take the learnings forward, improve and come back stronger in the next game. I can assure you that we are going to come back with more intent for sure, and put Australia under pressure straight from ball one.
“See, spin-friendly wicket or seam-friendly wicket, the only thing that matters is how you apply yourself as a batsman, and what your shot selection is. Even on flat wickets, you can be dismissed, if your application isn’t right. I would say our application in this game was very bad. It wasn’t like one or two guys were involved in a long partnership. We couldn’t build any partnerships.”
Comparing the spinners on both sides.
I think our spinners bowled really well as well. I wouldn’t say what they [the Australians] did better. As I said, if you don’t apply yourself, any bowling attack can look dangerous. It’s as simple as that. Even a part-timer can get four wickets if you don’t apply yourself. And I certainly would like to think that that was the case with our batting line-up in this game.
It rarely happens that four or five batsmen make errors in judgement in both the innings, especially with the way we have batted in the last few months. I would say this was our worst batting performance, and we need to accept that. We need to accept that we batted badly, and we need to improve on things and come back stronger in Bangalore. There’s still lot of cricket to go in the series, and we are certainly sure of showing the same intent that we have done in the past.
Were there any sort of feelers sent [to the local association] about how the wicket should be?
I don’t know. I didn’t speak to anyone.
Did India need an extra batsman?
I don’t think so. We wanted to pick up 20 wickets. We did manage to do that. I mean, not in time. I would say we did make breakthroughs, but we could’ve done it quicker. If you don’t grab your chances in the second innings, if you drop five chances off one batsman, then you certainly don’t deserve to win. If you get bowled out within 11 runs and lose seven wickets, you don’t deserve to win a Test match.
As I said, you can speak about combinations… I’m sure you wouldn’t have asked this question had we won the game. The question changes drastically when you win or lose. A lot of things are result-oriented, but not with our team. We focus on what we can do right, and what we need to do right on field, and we don’t drift away from that. Our mindset doesn’t change with the results.
Did you expect the ball to turn (for his dismissal)?
It was a judgement error from my side. I left the ball too early. I should’ve waited for the ball a little more. You can’t say which ball is going to turn or which isn’t. You’ve got to play the line and I certainly didn’t do that. It was my fault.
Which is tougher, playing on a seam-friendly wicket, or a spin-friendly pitch?
I think our bowlers were spinning the ball too much, so we didn’t get the edge. I can’t understand how I can judge that, because the balls that spun less took wickets, and the ones that did didn’t get any wickets. Cricket is like that, so what can we do?
See, spin-friendly wicket or seam-friendly wicket, the only thing that matters is how you apply yourself as a batsman, and what your shot selection is. Even on flat wickets, you can be dismissed, if your application isn’t right. I would say our application in this game was very bad. It wasn’t like one or two guys were involved in a long partnership. We couldn’t build any partnerships.
I think that was our worst point. That’s one area that we worked on in the past few months with pride, and executed it as well. I wouldn’t think too much about this Test. If after 18 or 19 Tests, we play one bad game, you have to accept that it’s a part of international cricket. I don’t know if people were thinking that we couldn’t lose at all, but in our mind there was no such thing. If we don’t play good cricket, then any team can beat us.