India’s underwhelming batting performance in the first innings gave England the decisive advantage, skipper Virat Kohli said on Tuesday and defended the decision to play rookie left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem instead of a more experienced Kuldeep Yadav. After losing the first Test by 227 runs, Kohli admitted that the team was always under the scoreboard pressure after England’s mammoth first innings total of 578 but also said that he has no regrets about picking Nadeem over Kuldeep. “I think, Test probably shifted in their favour when we batted in the first innings. We were looking to bat better but I don’t think there was enough application shown by us as a batting unit,” Kohli said at the post-match press conference referring to India’s 337 all out first innings score.
“Even if someone got a hundred in either innings, still we were pretty much behind in the game. There’s not one way to play the game and we understand that quite well and our endeavour in the future games is going to be long partnerships,” said Kohli.
Kuldeep’s absence was a talking point through the Test but Kohli gave his reasons as to why he wouldn’t like to revisit his decision.
“When you are playing two off-spinners, Kuldeep more or less becomes a similar kind of spinner (bringing it into the right-handers). So, we needed variety. We were quite clear what combination we wanted to play, and there are no regrets whatsoever,” Kohli said.
Kohli wasn’t amused when asked whether the England team, coming off a series win in Sri Lanka, was far better prepared than India, playing a Test match on home soil after the Bangladesh series in 2019.
“You could say they are well prepared but to say they are better prepared than us in our own conditions is not an accurate assessment,” Kohli, who is known for his plain speak, put it as he saw it.
“That was something that was said when Australia won the first Test (in Pune) in 2017. So look, we don’t jump the gun or come to conclusions too early as a side.
“What’s said on the outside what is being perceived and discussed doesn’t bother us at all. We never really focussed on that and we won’t do that moving forward as a team,” Kohli added.
He hinted that the management could rework the combination in the coming matches. The second Test is also scheduled to be held in Chennai from February 13.
“Moving forward, we will look at combinations, that bring us variety in the bowling attack and not (be) one-dimensional, where the ball is only turning away from the bat,” he said.
He also didn’t take too kindly to the question on whether Ajinkya Rahane’s form, considering that the only innings of note recently is his hundred at MCG Test in Australia, was a matter of concern.
“Look I got bowled as well. If you are trying to dig something out, you are not going to get it because there is nothing,” Kohli vehemently backed his deputy.
“Ajinkya, I have said this many a times in the past as well (that) along with (Chetshwar) Pujara, he is our most important Test batsman and he continues to be as we believe in his abilities and he is an impact player.
“If you are talking about MCG Test, he stood up and scored a hundred when the team wanted it the most. You can look at number of innings and what happens from thereon, the reality is we won the series in Australia.”
Even in the first innings it was Joe Root’s unbelievable catch that made the difference, said Kohli.
“If that (catch) went for a boundary and he scored runs, then we won’t be not having this conversation, so there are absolutely no issues and everyone is playing really well.”
It was indeed a very flat deck and Kohli said the only time when the pitch showed some signs of wear and tear was the third session on Day 3.
“Reality of situation is wicket was very flat and slow. I am not saying that it is an excuse we will hold onto as a team but reality of what went on. That was the case on the first two days,” he said.
“Even day three, after Tea is when the wicket really started to change and when you get big runs, even when wicket is flat, opposition is invariably put under pressure.
“Those are the dynamics you need to understand how the game moves.”
Did he miss Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav after watching how well James Anderson reversed the old ball in these conditions?
“They are not here so whether they could have or would have is irrelevant. Look we are not a side that gets into ‘what ifs’ or ‘what could have beens’, (or) what should have been,” Kohli said.
“If we are adding to ‘what could have beens’, then you are also talking about what could have happened if Jaddu (Ravindra Jadeja) would have played the Test match as well.
“In one game, if the execution hasn’t happened, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen again. We have to keep believing in the process and not think of what this player or that player could have done.”
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