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Australia tour not an 'engineering exam' for Virat Kohli

Despite 0-4 loss in the last series Down Under, stand-in captain Virat dwells on the importance of being positive before four-Test battle

The Indian cricket team departed for Australia in the wee hours of this morning for the four-Test and one-day series with renewed hope and vigour.

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli arrives for a pre-departure media conference at a suburban five-star hotel yesterday. Pic/PTI.

Stand-in skipper Virat Kohli will lead the team in the December 4 Brisbane Test in the absence of injured Mahendra Singh Dhoni. At a press conference yesterday evening, Kohli did not display any lack of confidence before his departure to Australia where a star-studded Indian Test lost 0-4 in 2011-12.

Excerpts from an interaction:
On his first Test as captain:
I am very confident of this side’s ability considering the kind of composure and character that they have shown in the last month. Everyone is keen to go out there and compete in Australian conditions and the tough challenge which comes with it.

I am sure everyone is ready for the challenge. That tour (Australia in 2011-12) was a milestone in my career and a career-changing phase for me. I was a different person and a different character when I left Australia back in 2012. That is something every cricketer should look forward to.

On his style of captaincy:
It has to be caution with aggression. The first priority is to be positive and aggressive. We can dictate terms when we are in a position where we can plan ahead. The intent has to be positive and aggressive.

On rising to the challenge:
First things first… we need to figure the best combination for the Test series. Test cricket is about sticking to a particular combination and giving those players confidence throughout the series. It is very important not to let them feel that they are replacements, sitting there to replace someone. You need to give them confidence. You have to think of winning every single minute of the day. That’s how you will compete with a team like Australia and actually have a good chance of beating them on their home ground. India has done that in the past and I see no reason as to why it can’t happen again.

On the ‘tigers at home, lambs abroad’ tag:
It is your (media’s) opinion. I have nothing to say to this. Praise and criticism both come from the media. As a cricketer it is important not to get affected by these things and stay on the same level. You maintain a balanced mindset and it is better to try and not focus on these things as much as possible. The media hailed us as the greatest Test team after the Lord’s victory (against England) and then we were criticised after we lost the remaining three Test matches. When foreign teams come here and lose, we don’t criticise them like this.

On the expectations before an overseas tour:
I don’t think the team has promised anything to anyone. These issues are created by people who ask whether we will be able to live up to expectations; whether we will be able to perform to our capability.
As a cricketer, I don’t see the tour of England or Australia as an engineering exam. It is just another game of cricket that you play whether it is Australia, England or India or South Africa. At the end of the day, you want to go out there, bat your best, bowl your best and win the game. Your comfort zone which is obviously playing in the sub-continent, is another feel-good factor. Judgments and opinions are for others to take care of.

On what he learnt from the 2011-12 tour of Australia:
I never experienced aggression and that kind of an atmosphere before. I will try to share that experience to other players - what to expect and what sort of mindset to go with. You have to be positive every single day. That is something we will focus on.

On having four pace bowlers with 140kmp-plus ability:
It’s an advantage when you have four bowlers who can bowl 140+ because then you can compete on those pitches. If you have that firepower, you can compete, strategise and plan accordingly. For a captain, this is a blessing because you have two bowlers up front – one who can swing the ball and one who is bowling 140-plus and then you have two more who can bowl at 140-plus for those other two spells. So, the batsman is never sure about going after the bowlers and that’s exactly what you want.

On the advantage of a big squad (19 members):
It is not about having more options because as I said, you need to back a certain XI. Where it helps is the players who are sitting out can actually prepare in those conditions and if there is injury to anyone in the playing XI and someone else has to step in, he knows the culture, he knows what we are trying to achieve, he knows what’s going on in the squad. A guy flying straight into Australia may not know what the team is trying to achieve for the last 20 to 25 days so that makes a massive difference. One person not on the same page can be very harmful.

On the IPL scam revelations affecting the team:
Our focus has been on cricket throughout and we haven’t really focused on things that have been happening off the field. Anything regarding those things, the management will have a quote or an explanation. I would like to talk about cricket only and I can assure you the focus has been on cricket and what we want to achieve in the next six months. We have not been distracted by any off-field issues.

On the possibility of a poor Test series hampering the team's confidence before the World Cup:
We haven’t really thought about that. We are only thinking about the positive side. When the worst-case scenario comes, we will plan. I think everyone is good to do that. We don’t even want that thought to creep into the side right now. That’s our job… to keep the negativity away. No matter what the results are, even if you are not doing well, as long as you can look into the eye of the opposition and make him feel you are there (it is good). And when the opportunity comes, you are going to strike. That’s the kind of belief that is needed in the team. This sort of negativity is not welcome in the team.

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