India in England 2014 July 7, 2014

'Excited' Kohli focused on his goals


Play 03:03
'Not targeting just one man' - Kohli

When India were losing all four Tests in England in 2011, Virat Kohli couldn't do anything about it, having not made the Test XI after a lacklustre tour of the West Indies. He used that setback as motivation, and came back a better batsman to become India's leading run-getter in Australia, where India failed miserably again. Kohli might come across as a brash youngster who would like to do things on his terms, but these traditional challenges matter more to him than he lets on.

When he made a bold statement on India's behalf with a century on the first day of the Test series in South Africa last year, Kohli spoke about how he had been thinking of, planning to, and visualising scoring hundreds in South Africa even when he was playing ODIs on flat tracks in India. He holds this England tour, he says, in the same regard.

"This is right up there with South Africa, Australia, New Zealand," Kohli said two days before the first Test at Trent Bridge. "And England, I would say, these are the four places where the subcontinent players do want to perform well and do target. I too have that in my mind. A pretty special place to play cricket."

Kohli spoke with appropriate respect for the challenge. "I'll be playing a Test at Lord's for the first time so all in all a very exciting tour for me personally because I have never played Test cricket here before. I am really looking forward to it. I have some goals I want to achieve, and I have been thinking about them. I am pretty excited about playing here, and it is right up there with the toughest venues for subcontinent players."

They might not have played here before, but Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara are being talked of as the meat in the Indian batting line-up, and the two wickets that every bowling unit is targeting. Kohli said he and Pujara are conscious of that, but don't want to let expectations weigh them down.

"I think it is more important what we expect of ourselves," Kohli said. "Obviously people will expect things when you start performing, but you can't focus on that. Because then, firstly you put pressure on yourself, and secondly you drift away from what you want to do. If you think of what you expect from yourself, you stick to your plan. We'd rather stick to that.

"Obviously we realise that we both have performed consistently in Test cricket. We want to keep on going like that. Cheteshwar has been brilliant for us at No. 3 and a really solid player. Gives us that feeling of calm. Him and me have got some good partnerships that have helped us get into stronger positions in Test matches. We both realise that, but we aren't thinking too much into those things. You can't plan for things unless you are batting in the middle and you are set. And then you can dictate terms. Once you get going you start to think about that big partnership that changes the course of the game."

The horror of 2011 will follow India until such a time they have righted it. Kohli said they didn't need to think too much about that defeat. "We haven't spoken about what we did wrong in that series," Kohli said. "We've spoken about the positives we could take out of it. A guy who played brilliantly in that series, Rahul Dravid, is mentoring us right now, speaking about his experiences. That's a big plus. We can't focus on the things that went wrong. You don't want to think about them. That was a different time.

"Three years down the line, we have a totally new side. It's a very exciting time for us because most of us haven't played Test cricket here. It'll be exciting for us to experience the conditions and everyone's eager to go out there and see what it's like. We've heard a lot from senior players of how it's one of the best places in the world to play Test cricket. You get full crowds, everyone's involved in the game and everyone knows the game, so it's an exciting time for us. We don't want to think about the negatives of 2011. Obviously, we'd like to do well in the series. It's not about washing that [2011] off, erasing those memories. That will stay in the history books, whether we like it or not. All we can focus on is the new series we have here, and put in a strong performance which would be a starting point for this young team to go ahead and be a good quality Test side."

Kohli can get cheeky and feisty when talking about opposition - as he did after the "softened-up" caption next to his photo in South Africa - but he stayed away from mind games here. He did acknowledge that Graeme Swann will be a big miss, but he didn't consider it a huge advantage that England have already lost a series this season to Sri Lanka. Asked whether India were planning to follow Ravi Shastri's advice, to "go for" the under-pressure England captain Alastair Cook, Kohli sought to play down any of those plans.

"There's no one man that we're looking to target," Kohli said. "If we play aggressively as a unit, you would want everyone in the opposition to be out. You want to get every wicket possible. It's not about targeting one man in particular as far as I'm concerned. Personally I'm not preparing for a particular player to be bogged down too much or anything like that. If we play aggressively, we'll create problems for all the batsmen and that's going to be our target.

"I'm the same for everyone (smiles). I don't change my aggression towards a particular player. Whatever works for the team, I try to do that. That's something I'm pretty consistent in."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 9, 2014, 7:26 GMT

    Murali Vijay, Shikar Dhawan cannot save or win matches in overseas conditions. Better have Gahmbir and try to save.

  • Rahul on July 8, 2014, 17:39 GMT

    @ JG2704- Ha! I know mate. Arun seemed too angry at BellCurve's foolish comment ,it was almost funny. Just a little banter from my side as well.. Fans seem to get carried away with talking too much trash before any game. So, its not cool to go over the top. Anyway, think it will be a closely fought series. Both teams having some issues,India with the Bowling and will be stronger if they drop or Ishant sharma is injured in the nets for the better of India. England with an inexperienced but capable batting line up,so interesting to see what unfolds. Alsol will be important how fitness plays a role for Broad/Anderson to last 5 Tests. Still both teams need to get their balance right. 2-1 Either way for me.

  • Sundaram on July 8, 2014, 10:42 GMT

    Kohli looks a more complete batsmen these days, and limited overs cricket seems to have actually helped him to do that. I feel he will really deliver at the big stage this series. Pujara and Kohli will form the backbone of Indian batting this summer.

  • Muthuvel on July 8, 2014, 10:09 GMT

    With KP gone and Cook in bad form its just Bell/Root to worry about. But if Cook comes back to form then its done. For India Pakaj has to be played ahead of Ishant, Ishant can not bowl in unhelpful conditions at all.

    Country with 1.2 billion people is an old argument, all 1.2 billion do not play cricket, if country with 1.4 billion China can not have a good football team then it makes sense that the number of players playing in highest level is what matters not the size of the country.

  • Muthuvel on July 8, 2014, 10:02 GMT

    This Indian team has very few technical deficiencies they are not aging it a very good team and it will be a very tough proposition for England to beat them.

  • Muthuvel on July 8, 2014, 9:59 GMT

    I see a lot of comments against M Vijay, he did well in SA and NZ i do not understand what is the problem here, Dhawan also did well in NZ.

  • faiz on July 8, 2014, 9:56 GMT

    though england are down but they havebeen playing tests and India have come after a long break in tests. IPL has been on for ever. all indians are in t20 mode. they will have a tough time in tests.

  • Dummy on July 8, 2014, 9:23 GMT

    @Jamie Moneghan India have won only one icc trophy less than aussies,so nothing to brag about your cabinet,in the last 4 tournaments we have racked up 21 wins and only 3defeats,how many matches did you win against test playing nations in the last 2 tourneys and yes come back when you finally win a test in India since2004 W0 L8 D2..

  • Kendal on July 8, 2014, 9:13 GMT

    Kohli, Pujara and Rahane batted really well on the SA tour against a proven attack. I would enjoy seeing them thrive in English conditions. If Vijay doesn't get going Gambhir might suprise a few people with his resolve. He is past his prime, but you need those grafters in Test cricket. He at least will add some steel.

  • hassu on July 8, 2014, 9:12 GMT

    I think England is at their lowest and India will probably win the series based on their batting. Their bowling very benign in general but with medium pace bowlers they can maybe get that extra swing and trouble the english batsmen. I would really love Kohli to smash Stuart Broad!

    Best Wishes, From Pakistan

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