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