Beginning with New Zealand on Thursday, India will be kick-starting a lengthy home stretch of 13 Test matches. Captain Virat Kohli believes the season will be a career defining period for all the players and the one which could decide the future of Indian Test cricket.
India are fresh from their exploits in the West Indies and eager to continue in the similar vein in the coming contests. The World No 2 Test team, Kohli believes, has the potential to turn into a “champion side” and were buoyed by their coach Anil Kumble’s confidence in their vision. “I feel this season is a phase were we can sort of lay a foundation as to where the Test team will go, and where Test cricket will go as far as India is concerned. This team is full of exciting players who are very talented. I certainly feel this team has what it takes to be the best.
“The challenge over the last year or so has been to show composure in Test cricket, to get the victories we require and we have been able to do that. It obviously gives us a lot of confidence a legend like him (Anil Kumble) believes in the team that way,” Kohli said on Wednesday.
“This season obviously will be, you can say, career defining for all the people in the squad because we have hardly played 17 Test matches regularly. That is one thing we are very happy about that we can plan out Test cricket and test ourselves and earn our victories whenever the chance comes up.”
Spin, however, has become their bane in the coming years. While Kohli refused to call it a “concern”, he, nonetheless, confessed the need to work on the area. “We have lost a Test match in Sri Lanka because we could not play spin as well as we wanted to. It is something we surely need to get stronger at. I think what has happened is that there is so much being built up upon we not been able to play well away from home and that we kept focusing on playing fast bowling and we really got good at it. And we countered conditions very well away from home,” he reasoned.
“We played so well in England, Australia and South Africa that we didn’t play attention to spin. And now we are putting in more effort to bat against the spinners in the net, practicing small little things by ourselves, to test the batsman. We are trying to improve that area of our game, so that we can cover all basis, we want to become a champion side. We obviously don’t want to give the opposition any window to get into the game.”
Since becoming the captain, Kohli has preferred to carry five-bowler in his armour. He, however, hinted that they might go with extra batsman on the spin friendly track.
“We spoke about solidifying our batting a bit more especially on wickets like these because most teams have quality spinners these days. Some conditions we might not need a fifth bowler, so we have to be smart about it, the combination we want to play,” he said.
Kohli said they were wary of New Zealand. “They are a pretty good side. They play good positive cricket. That is what we have seen in the last couple of years. Obviously driven initially by Brendon McCullum, he got in those ideas where they played fearless cricket.
“Kane (Williamson) has been leading the side really well. He is a very exciting cricketer himself. We expect really good competition and good hard fought cricket.”