India had to wait on praying in their change room as rain delayed the start of final day’s play by two hours. While the forecast for weather was clear skies in the afternoon, they couldn’t have helped enduring a bout of anxiety. When play finally resumed at 12.55 pm local time, it took them all of 27 balls to post a thumping 137-run win here at the MCG on Sunday, ending the year on a high.
A delighted Virat Kohli spoke of the need of having the obsession to win away from home, the fast bowlers’ progress in the last year, the gamble with the opening combination among others. Excerpts.
Do you see the kind of focus within this team you spoke of in South Africa?
If you see, if you want to win a series away from home, it has to be an obsession. And once you are obsessed, changing your decisions according to (outside) opinions is not an option at all. Instinctively, you have a gut feeling of playing a shot or bowling a particular ball, and inside, if you feel good about doing something in a particular Test match, you should just follow that. You can’t change for someone else. I think that’s been the most important factor for us. That we haven’t changed our mindset regardless of who said what, and at the end of the day, your belief is what matters. Because you are (who is) out there competing. Hats off to the whole team for sticking together and believing in themselves and being obsessed about getting results.
What are your impressions of Mayank Agarwal and Jasprit Bumrah?
Mayank’s composure, his intent and belief, was a huge boost for us. Because the way he batted at the top of the order on the first day, it has to be praised because it is not easy to come to Australia and start like that and against such a bowling attack. He should also get a lot of credit for the win. Jasprit has only been playing for 12 months. He obviously is the best bowler in the world, as per me. He is a match winner, without doubt. But Mayank’s contribution was also special.
Do you reckon it as a special win? What impact will it have going forward?
We always knew we can do this. So, although we are very happy, we are not shocked or very surprised by what’s happened. We have always believed that it is very possible because of the talent we have in the side and the mindset that we have been carrying in the last 12 months regardless of what’s been said, regardless of the mistakes we have made. Our mindset never shifted once. So, I think, the best thing about this win to bounce back again. It is how we bounced back once in England and once in South Africa. That takes more mentally more out of you than when you are starting a series well. That’s why this victory is more special to the bowlers because they have been so tired, they bowled so many overs and even in this game they had to put in more effort because the nature of the pitch. Outstanding, hats off to them.
You made some very bold changes before this game, and they paid off a lot.
We discussed something and felt good about it. Instinctively, you have a feel for any decision you make. And we felt (Hanuma) Vihari was very… I mean you might not think of Vihari’s contribution as being significant to this game. But if you look at the fact that he played out 15 overs (18.5 overs) of the new-ball with Mayank in the first innings, it allowed (Cheteshwar) Pujara and me to bat, and bat, and bat. I mean we were not walking in under pressure, we were walking in thinking that we can build a partnership. Even though he scored less runs, the fact that he played out the new ball and played his role perfectly, meant that we could do what we did in the first innings. And we as a team realise that and, most importantly, he was confident about doing the job for the team.
How does it feel to have actually won and not just talk about it?
We don’t want to just talk and just win one game and be like ‘oh, we played so well in Australia’. It’s all about the team. Even Bumrah’s team interview post game was all about how I can contribute to the team. The fact that he didn’t get any wickets in Perth and the way he bowled there, he didn’t lose heart. He knew wickets are going to come at some stage. And if you see the other bowlers, they are not trying to outdo someone else. If Bumrah is taking wickets, they are containing runs. If someone is picking up wickets, Bumrah comes in and does his job. So does (Ravindra) Jadeja. So does Ashwin. It is a team effort at the end of the day. When it comes together nicely, when it gets you results, it feels wonderful. Because that’s what you play cricket for, right? You don’t play to just play well, you play to win. So it feels good to have those results go our way.