'No one in Indian team is frightened of anything' - Kohli
Handicapped by poor scheduling from the BCCI and India's ordinary bowling, Virat Kohli was left to defend his fellow batsmen against statements from the opposition that some of them might have been frightened in the first ODI, which India lost by 141 runs. Kohli admitted they were outplayed by South Africa, but said there was no way they were frightened.
When told of Dale Steyn's comment that South Africa's bowlers might have inflicted scars that run deeper than just the one match, that the Indian batsmen might have been frightened, Kohli smirked a little, and said: "I don't think so. On a personal level, I don't think so. As I said, I was down the wicket to the fourth ball I faced. It is not about getting frightened or anything like that. He is a quality bowler and we all know that, and we should be good enough to tackle that and come up with the goods when we face him.
"I don't think anyone in this Indian team is frightened of anything. Regardless of the loss the other day, you didn't see anyone sort of closing their eyes to bouncers or getting out throwing their bats around. We were trying hard to counter the bowling they came up with, and they were bowling in great areas, but you didn't see anyone sort of moving away from stumps and trying rash shots or anything like that. We were all trying to get into positions to play correct shots, but they pitched it in the right areas and were getting enough help to trouble us."
Kohli's stepping out to Steyn happened because the Indian bowlers had conceded 358, and the batsmen couldn't afford to take any time to get used to the conditions. As it is they were not given any time to adjust to them before the match. After MS Dhoni, Kohli became the second Indian to mention the poor scheduling, but said they didn't have a choice but to accept it. "The unfortunate part is that we didn't get that too many practice sessions or practice games," Kohli said. "Our schedule has been such. It is unfortunate that we have to sort of play games and then get to know the conditions, rather than be prepared a week or 10 days before. That's all part of the busy schedule we have. We have got to go along with that, and be mentally strong to come back in the next game and perform better."
The same went for the bowling, too, Kohli said. "Bowlers are so used to bowling back home for the last few months that the lengths can't be changed at such a short notice," he said. "I think the bowlers do get excited with a bit of pace and bounce. It tends to happen every time. You see when there is bounce and pace in the wicket, the bowlers do tend to go a bit short because they feel they can bowl that length.
"We have understood, we have learned from the first game, and you will see a much better performance from the bowlers and the batsmen combined. It is all about learning. As I said, we don't have much time to prepare before the game so we would rather learn from the games, and move forward and improve our performances. I hope we pitch the ball in right areas and bat well tomorrow."
Kohli admitted it was tough to face Steyn, especially when chasing 359. "He was quite brilliant the other day," Kohli said. "He is a world-class bowler, and we all know that. To see him swing the ball from middle stump, and get it past the off stump, actually the fifth stump, it was tough to face. It was something very rare because not many can swing the ball like he does, and he was just in great rhythm and pitching the ball in the right areas.
"All you can do as a batsman is to try and upset his length, and that is why when I stepped out and I wanted to hit him over the infield to disturb the length he was bowling. Otherwise if you keep defending, you kept getting beaten, so you have to come up with something.
"We always knew that we will get bounce and pace in South Africa, and we had that in mind. We have plans as batsmen, but when you are chasing 359 there is not much you can do. You may have a set plan, you might tell yourself you don't want to play too many flashy shots in the beginning, but when you are chasing 360 you have to play those shots."
Conceding 358 might not have to do just with errant lengths. Steyn suggested India needed more pace on these pitches to trouble good batsmen. Kohli said the team will definitely consider more pace than that of Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Mohit Sharma. India will need all that and more if they are to come out of this hole.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo