No sense in blaming the wicket - Kohli
The ICC match officiating team's "poor" rating of the Nagpur pitch has had no impact on Virat Kohli's outlook towards the playing surfaces. If anything, it has infuriated him further, to the extent that he has effectively accused the ICC of having double standards when rating the pitches. He brought up the recent Adelaide Test, which finished in three days, and a few others in South Africa where the ball dominated the bat, at least on paper.
"Well there have been three scores of under 50 in Tests in South Africa," Kohli said on the eve of the final Test of the series. "I haven't seen any articles about that. Teams have been bundled out for less than 100 six times in South Africa. There's not been an article about that. Articles are there to be written. It's about the mindset or opinion of someone. I don't relate to it. I don't understand it, and I certainly don't entertain it. It doesn't bother me or the team. People can write articles as and how they wish."
Midway into this sermon Kohli had to be reminded the issue here was not articles, but the ICC's assessment of the pitch in Nagpur. "I'm talking about everyone," Kohli said. "I'm not talking about people writing articles in general. It is an assessment that has happened in every condition, in every ground. Unfortunately, in our country and in our situation, it is highlighted a lot more. That's a fact. Because all we have been talking about is the pitch.
"In South Africa, the only thing we were talking about is how badly we were playing. So it's been going on for a while. There's no change in pattern. The Indian team is going into a new mindset. Apart from that, the thinking of the rest around it has not changed too much. Because we are criticised about our games and techniques when we don't play well but when visitors don't play well, it's always the wicket. So there is no sense to it as far as I am concerned or the Indian team is concerned."
In India reporters are not allowed anywhere near the pitch, which leaves captains as the only sources of information on the pitch, but Kohli refused to talk about what to expect from Delhi. "I don't want to talk too much about the pitch," Kohli said. "Because there has already been a lot of talk about it. If we have to talk about the cricket, it will be better. Because when the team wins, the support should come from all quarters. Always, we look at points to criticise. There's hardly a point where the team is backed to make them confident. So, in my view, I don't understand the logic behind it. There have been comments from all sides about the pitch. I don't think anyone has written articles about the Adelaide Test, which finished in two-and-a-half days. So I don't see anything wrong with any kind of wicket that we play on."
If the pitches are not an issue, there must be some reason there have been only four half-centuries in the series, two of those from India. The team director Ravi Shastri has bemoaned the decline in the art of grafting for runs. When asked if he was concerned about his side's performance against the spinners - and lesser spinners at that, when compared to R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra - Kohli again retorted with apparent frustration.
"We are prepared to face anyone anywhere," Kohli said. "We are prepared to take up any sort of challenge. I don't understand why we are not sitting here and talking about the fact that we are 2-0 up in the series, and again we are trying to criticise our players. As regards our weaknesses we know them and we are working on them, we are international cricketers, and we are not here to hide from any mistake. But if that's the only point that is going to be raised in press conferences and debates then as a cricketer you don't see any sense in answering those questions after a while. I think we should appreciate what the team has done and move forward in the same direction."
Kohli was asked if the cricket played lived up to the billing in the lead-up to the series. "I think it was good Test cricket," Kohli said. "People have liked watching it on TV. You saw the crowds in Bangalore, in Nagpur, even Mohali we had a decent crowd. People want to see results. People want to see exciting cricket, and that is what has happened in this series. We have certainly enjoyed it. Playing and putting pressure on the opposition, we have enjoyed as a unit."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo