Ravi Shastri (L) and Virat Kohli    AFP
Ravi Shastri (left) and Virat Kohli AFP

Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri attended a press conference following their practice session ahead of the first Test versus South Africa at Cape Town from January 5. Kohli had taken a jibe at BCCI for the ‘prolonged’ home season ahead of the South Africa tour. As a result, India did not play a warm-up match ahead of the Test series opener. Nonetheless, Kohli and Shastri believe Team India are in the right frame of mind, aware of the conditions ahead, and want to make the most of their practice sessions according to their needs; i.e. preparing the wickets as per their wants.

We have the freedom to put more water on the wicket, roll it, make it harder’

“If you look at the wicket which we’re playing on right now, it’s not even 15 per cent of what we’re going to get in the game. We understand that. There is no point wasting two days (with) guys going and scoring quick fifties and coming out. We rather have them do two sessions like today, get into the Test match zone, test ourselves. We can try and prepare the wickets the way we want to. In a two-day game there is no room for changing the wicket at different times of the day. Here, we have the freedom to put more water on the wicket, roll it, make it harder and come tomorrow’s practice session then we have conditions that we want.

“You’re never sure of whether you’re going to get quality practice games or not. So we would rather have practice sessions that are in our control, the way we want to run them. It doesn’t matter if you play three practice games and you’re not in the right frame of mind. It doesn’t matter, starting (the first Test) on fifth of January, whether you’ve played two practice games or three. If you’re in a good head-space and have good practice sessions, I think you’re good enough as well,” affirmed Kohli.

‘We are not under any delusions as to what we’re going to be presented with’

“We come to South Africa knowing that the wickets are going to be different from back home. Even the last time when we’ve played there was talk about we getting bounced out and we’re going to struggle against the short ball. But I think our batsmen stood up really nicely. If you remember, clearly on Day 1 of the Jo’burg Test we put up a great fight, we handled their bowlers pretty well and we made them work hard. We almost won that Test, it ended up being a draw. So, we are prepared as to what we’re going to get here and we’re not under any delusions as to what we’re going to be presented with, come fifth of January,” added Kohli.

‘If we wouldn’t have that mindset then there’s no point in getting onto that flight’

“Our best result has been a drawn series, if I remember, in 2010-11. I feel the kind of bowling attack we have now and the kind of balance we have in the side, we definitely believe that we can win here. There’s no two ways about it. If we wouldn’t have that mindset then there’s no point in getting onto that flight as well. We have come here wanting to express ourselves, believing in our abilities, knowing that we have the right balance to win Test matches in any conditions that we play in. This one again is an opportunity for us to play good cricket. We’re not thinking about whether we’re playing in South Africa or any other country. For us it’s about winning sessions, being in the present, executing our skills well, not looking at the history as to what’s happened in the particular country where we play at,” concluded Kohli.

This will be Kohli’s first assignment leading India in South Africa. On their last tour, in 2013, India had commenced the series on a good note before conceding the two-Test series 0-1. Coming on the back of 9 (joint-most) consecutive Test series victories, India would be confident of challenging South Africa. While India are ranked No. 1 in the Test rankings, South Africa are just a position behind.

India beat South Africa 3-0 the last time the two sides played. South Africa, with the return of AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and regular skipper Faf du Plessis, will give India a run for their money, promising a mouth-watering three Tests lined up for viewers and spectators.