Virat Kohli © AFP
Virat Kohli © AFP

It was a fiery press conference after India went down 0-2 at Centurion in the ongoing Test series against South Africa. Virat Kohli not only argued with journalists but also pulled up his teammates for repeated mistakes in the first two Tests. Kohli had won nine Test series in a row, equalling England and Australia’s record. The 135-run defeat at Centurion meant Kohli losing his first series as a full-time captain across formats.

Defeats are acceptable as they are a part of the game but the Indian captain is livid with the way the side has surrendered in the series.

“At the end of the day one team has to lose. As a team you always try to win. You can accept defeat but not the way we played, the way we let the advantage slip out of our hands, which is not acceptable from a team’s point of view,” said a visibly agitated Kohli. “So many soft dismissals hurt us a lot. Because you work so hard, prepare for a match, get into good situations, shift the game towards you, and then the momentum shifts because of these mistakes. We have repeated these mistakes in both matches. That feels very bad as a team,”

‘We need to question ourselves’

Kohli believes his teammates need to question themselves on their shortfalls.

“We have not come here to play the way we have done. I’m not going to sit here and try to comfort anyone. We need to be hard on ourselves. We need to ask ourselves if we are giving 120 per cent for the team every time we bowl a ball or play a ball or field a ball.

“We should be reflecting on all our decision-making and all the actions that we have made in this game and the previous game and act upon them. Individuals have to sit and reflect on these things themselves. They do it, I am not saying they don’t reflect on it. We are definitely going to lay out these things in the open,” said Kohli.

Kohli slams batsmen

Indian bowlers have done a reasonable job so far in the series, letting South Africa breach the 300-mark just once from four innings. However, batting and fielding have let India down. Kohli came down heavily on his batsmen for not applying themselves enough.

Watch Virat Kohli lose cool on South African journalist after Centurion Test defeat
Watch Virat Kohli lose cool on South African journalist after Centurion Test defeat

“Partnerships of 60s and 70s are not good enough to win Test matches. You need guys to put their heads down when the partnerships has gone to 60 and 70 and try to make it into 100 or 150 to give the team the best chance of winning a Test match or being in a solid position.

“When you are batting, you want to make big 100s and not get out so that the team benefits from that. When we did well in Australia, we got 450 runs every first innings but our partnerships were massive. That is something we haven’t repeated here.

“South Africa did not have many partnerships, but whatever they had, one big partnership was always there and that was the key to them consolidating those situations and they deserved to win the series,” he added.

On team combination

The team management has been heavily criticised for dropping Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the Centurion Test. Bhuvi was one of India’s best performers in the first Test and had swung the first Test in visitor’s favour in the first half an hour of the series by claiming Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram and Hashim Amla.

India also dropped Shikhar Dhawan and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane warmed the bench in both the Tests. Parthiv Patel for Wriddhiman Saha was the only forced change as the latter is down with a hamstring injury.

Did Kohli make the best use of his resources?

“When something does not work, obviously it’s going to be spoken against. We are pretty used to that. We as a team don’t think of what the opinion going around is.

“A lot was spoken about Bhuvi but (Mohammed) Shami performed in this game. So now no one is talking about that. It’s all about whoever goes out on the field and performs. We obviously look at the conditions and we decide as a management group and the captain myself sitting together, that what is the best eleven that we can take on the field.

“And then we don’t sit back and think ‘Oh we could have done that or we should have done that’. You make one decision and you back it,” he said.

Is there too much dependency on Kohli?

Kohli is the only centurion in this series. In fact he is the only Indian batsman to score in excess of fifty in this Test. Kohli does not believe there is too much of dependency on him.

“I don’t think so. No one in the change room thinks like that. There are 11 guys in the field, I try to do my best and so does everyone else.

“Sometimes another batsman plays through the innings but that doesn’t mean that they are too dependent on that particular player. So, everyone has contributed for the team at different times, you can’t win games of cricket with one or two people.

“Everyone has done well in the past and that’s why we have done well, it just has not been able to come well together here.”

Lacking match practice

India did not travel in advance to play tour games. While many pundits have cited this as a reason for India’s fall in this series. However, Kohli has a different opinion.

“I don’t believe in that. We had a result in three days in Cape Town and we had no complaints. We enjoyed the pitch because we had an equal chance of winning the game there. We were not good enough to do that, that’s a different thing.

“But it was not like we were outplayed. We had opportunities in both the games, and that’s probably the smallest positive that we can think of at this moment. We are not complaining about pitches, we are not complaining about conditions.

“In Test cricket, it does not matter where you are playing. Teams have beaten us at home at times but these conditions (at Centurion) are something that we are used to playing at and we should have certainly done better than what have.

“South Africa collectively were a much better team than us regardless of pitches we played on. Their bowlers put relentless pressure on us. As a batting unit, after losing a few wickets, they would string in a partnership. They showed more character than us,” Kohli signed off.

The teams now move to Johannesburg to play the third and final Test, which starts on January 24.