India v Australia, 1st Test, Pune, 3rd day February 25, 2017

'How not to bat': Kohli faults batsmen not pitch


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'Conceding such a lead on such a pitch criminal' - Kohli

Lowest match total for two all-out innings in India. Quickest end to two all-out innings in India. India's fourth-lowest match total. The third-quickest they have taken to be bowled out. If India asked for this pitch, they have been hoisted by their own petard. India's captain Virat Kohli, though, insisted that he had not asked for this pitch, saw nothing wrong with the pitch, and pulled himself and his fellow batsmen up for capitulating for a total of 212 runs in 74 overs.

Asked if he or his team had asked for this pitch at a ground with a reputation for flat hard surfaces, Kohli said: "I don't know. I didn't speak to anyone."

About the pitch itself Kohli said: "I don't think it was any different from the turners that we played on in the past. We just didn't play good cricket. You can ask me any sort of question or any perception about the loss. We know exactly what happened, the mistakes that we made. External perceptions don't matter to us, they have never mattered to us.

"We played good cricket, that's why we won. We played bad cricket, and that's why we lost. That's how simply we look at this defeat. We just want to take the learnings forward, improve and come back stronger in the next game. I can assure you that we are going to come back with more intent for sure, and put Australia under pressure straight from ball one."

Once the pitch was laid out, India had the option of strengthening the batting like they did on a similar pitch in Nagpur against South Africa. Kohli defended the selection. "We wanted to pick up 20 wickets, we did manage to do that," Kohli said. "I mean, not in time. I would say we did make breakthroughs but we could've done it quicker and if you don't grab your chances in the second innings, if you drop five chances of one batsman, then you certainly don't deserve to win. If you get bowled out within 11 runs and lose seven wickets, you don't deserve to win a Test match.

"You can speak about combinations... I'm sure you wouldn't have asked this question had we won the game. The question changes drastically when you win or lose. A lot of things are result-oriented, but not with our team. We focus on what we can do right, and what we need to do right on field, and we don't drift away from that. Our mindset doesn't change with the results."

Kohli said Indian saw the defeat as "no big deal". "It's fine," Kohli said of the mood in the dressing room. "It's just another international game. It's no big deal. It's how you should stay calm and composed when you win, how you shouldn't get overexcited. The same way you react when you lose, something that you take on the chin. We take failures and losses as an opportunity to learn."

The defeat ended India's 19-Test unbeaten streak, and Kohli looked back to their previous defeat for inspiration. "The last time we had a performance like this [in Galle, against Sri Lanka], we had the most outstanding run after that," Kohli said. "I would say that we needed something like this for us to get a reality check and understand what are the things we need to work on and keep persisting with it. Not take anything for granted at any stage, especially at the Test-match level."

Kohli blamed his batsmen for not applying themselves, but defended his bowlers, who were outdone by Australia who had little experience of bowling in such conditions. "The way we batted in the first innings, I think we put ourselves under a lot of pressure to be honest," Kohli said. "Conceding a 160-run lead on that kind of wicket is criminal actually. If we were close enough to their first-innings total, the bowlers' mindset is different in the second innings. The moment you give away 50-60 runs, the game is drifting away already.

"It's very difficult to pull things back from there, even a single run hurts from thereon. And I would say our batsmen put us in that position where it was very difficult for us to come back into the game. Am not blaming the bowlers at all, they tried their level best, someone like Umesh [Yadav] bowling well in the first innings was great to see on a slowish wicket. They bowled in good areas, they put Australia under pressure, they were going well in the first innings and we pulled things back nicely. A few things we can take away from this game but [only] from bowling aspect. Our batting wasn't up to standard, and that's certainly how we shouldn't bat from here onwards.'

When asked what the Australia spinners did right in comparison to India's, Kohli found no flaw with his unit. "I think our spinners bowled really well as well," he said. "I wouldn't say what they did better. As I said, if you don't apply yourself, any bowling attack can look dangerous. It's as simple as that. Even a part-timer can get four wickets if you don't apply yourself. And I certainly would like to think that that was the case with our batting line-up in this game. It rarely happens that four-five batsmen make errors in judgement in both the innings, especially with the way we batted in the last few months. I would say this was our worst batting performance and we need to accept that."

One of the errors was Kohli's, when he shouldered arms to become one of Steve O'Keefe's 12 wickets in the match. This image was the most symbolic of all. Ravindra Jadeja had done this to Steven Smith in Delhi in 2012-13, and to Hashim Amla in Mohali in 2015-16. Now Kohli watched in horror as his off stump was laid flat. Kohli was forthcoming about his mistake.

"It was a judgement error from my side," he said. "I left the ball too early. I should have waited for the ball a little more. You can't say which ball is going to turn or which isn't. You've got to play the line, and I certainly didn't do that. It was my fault."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Santaz on March 2, 2017, 5:17 GMT

    Steven Smith,having scored so many centuries against India. has become Bradmanesque as far as Indian bowlers are concerned. He has not had this much success against any other teams. Smith now knows the Indian bowlers inside out and some variety is required. Pathetic that BCCI has not discovered a genuine fast bowler as yet despite make a operating income of 1.25 Billion Rupees which is more than GDP of countries like Haiti,Domican Republic ....Business as usual has to stop,fire Vinod Rai and his cohort, create an active search group for a fast bowler by setting up camps from Kashmir to Nagaland,if need be. Forget regionalism that gives automatic privileges to Mumbai,Gujerat,Chennai... and those pampered cricketers once and for all. Those on top needs to hear from those at grassroots level in ALL of India,not just Mumbai,Pune,Bangalor.Object should be to unearth talented fast bowler.

  • karthik on March 2, 2017, 1:48 GMT

    For starters whatever the pitch, Kohli needs a balanced team. No place for Ishant, Jayant, Rahane after Pune. KL and Vijay will play by default. Shame that we don't have a settled opening pair for the last 2 years despite such a brilliant run till Pune. Scope for a major overhaul in terms of batting&WK : except Kohli and Pujara. Rohit, Rishabh, Nair, Shreyas Iyer can all be superior choices whichever way you look at it. Despite all this talk of Kohli being a great captain etc I find his inclination towards oldies and loyal yes-men pathetic and unusual.When teams all over are opting for youth and dynamism . Fact is he would have yet gotten away had we won Pune but not anymore. If Kohli carries on with such selection, team will slide down unimaginably fast. I also find the branding of anyone younger as 'not ready' etc by selectors especially. These guys forget that Rishabh Pant has made 100's in a 4-day format and not T20s. Time to think ahead and take the leap in good faith.

  • Max on March 1, 2017, 14:25 GMT

    Kohli and most Indian fans are saying the pitch is not responsible but their batting is, this is like saying that the bullet didn't kill him, but he died because his heart stopped!

    Folks are pointing out that Smith scored a century, but he got more lives than a cat. Starc just slogged for his runs.

  • karthik on February 28, 2017, 23:41 GMT

    So Kohli and team went trekking to shrug off the thrashing, nice...good to unwind yourself after such an exhausting defeat. But as I said till they drop Jayant, Rahane, Ishant and pick Karun Nair, Kuldeep and Bhuvi they will be thrashed again in Bangalore and there wont be any chances for comeback left after that. Hope Kohli knows it and not learn the wrong lessons from Pune. It's not just mental makeup but the squad itself is loaded with insecure, soft-hearted players which does not help Kohli as the sole fighter. Openers need to be replaced for long term but since there are no readily available apart from Mukund I guess we just need to bank on KL and Vijay to provide some start. KL in a professional world would have been dropped right away for triggering a collapse when he was comfortable and set. Injury issues will anyway make his long term chances slim.

  • carl on February 28, 2017, 16:11 GMT

    any team that drops catches deserves to have more and more runs piled on by the opposition, can only hope that a batsman that is 'put down' hits the next ball to the fence while the cringing fielder/culprit and whole team watches the batsman reach triple figures, it is truly the ultimate cricketing sin

  • Praveen on February 28, 2017, 11:18 GMT

    Inability to play classic spin exposed the real talent of the current Indian squad. Players at the domestic watch the ball and play it at merit. Come on Kohli & Co, take some bloody advice from the likes of Dravid and Azharuddin.

  • niaz on February 28, 2017, 8:45 GMT

    One of the first test I followed was a Pakistan vs India test (I used to be a fan of indian team) where Iqbal Qasim snatched a match from india in a rank turner. I was amazed that Imran let Akram bowl 11 overs in the 4th innings and he got two crucial wickets. For Australia to win they need Starc and Hazlewood to get those wickets and strengthen the batting replacing one of the Marshes. For india They should probably play six genuine batsmen. Nothing works like run pressure in a spin friendly wicket. England plays 5 or 6 bowlers with 4 quicks which keep the bowlers fresh, That is not needed in the spin friendly wicket. Just 4 would do it... even 3 and a part time bowler.

  • Prabhat7jeayn_ on February 28, 2017, 7:44 GMT

    Virat does not know what to say in this situation and he was expecting MSD to come and cover him. He himself got out very stupidly. Bowler must be saying that are you sure you are a best batsmen India has or you were batting against light bowling attack. Overall Virat is not a good captain. Last four series bowler made runs to help India win, he was supposed to replace the batsmen if they are not performing. Test cricket is a Captain and Batsmen game. We were only lucky to win against Ban. Ban gave their wickets else they would have won. Anyways I would doubt if Virat will replace any batsmen for the next match.

  • Prabhat7jeayn_ on February 28, 2017, 7:35 GMT

    Mike_b- Game changes everyday. Only 300 maker is sitting out of the team bcoz Rahane is playing. The way Karun played was fantastic, he is way better test player.

  • Anand Raj on February 28, 2017, 5:19 GMT

    Then why he was looking at pitch for more than 5 mins once he was bowled

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