Anil Kumble, India's new head coach, has said he will back Virat Kohli's aggression and desire to push boundaries to secure wins. He also said India would approach tough situations positively during the long season, which starts with a four-Test series in the West Indies.
"I love his aggression. I was no different," Kumble said at the team's pre-departure press conference in Bangalore. "I was also aggressive, but very different in terms of how I probably came across on the field. I'll be the last person to curb someone's natural instincts, but of course we all know how important it is to be ambassadors of India and be a part of the Indian cricket team. That everybody in the team understands. There is a fine line and we will ensure that everybody knows that. I certainly won't curb anyone's instincts."
Kohli, a picture of composure, wore a sheepish smile as talk of his "over aggression" did the rounds, but insisted that India's mindset change wasn't one-off, and that it was something they planned when he took over the reins of the Test team in January 2015.
"Our first intention is to win - that won't change," he said. "Yes, there have been situations from where we've lost, but we know we were in that position because of the positive brand of cricket that we played." The reference, clearly not lost on anyone, was the Adelaide Test in December 2014, which India lost trying to chase down 364 on the final day.
"We need to realise we got there in the first place because we played at 80%, so the focus is on the remaining 20%. Anil bhai's mindset was the same during his playing days, so the mindset makes a difference. If you are hesitant, you don't explore a different side to your ability as a team. Our motive is the same. We will play with the same mindset of trying to win the series and not just being satisfied with solitary Test wins."
As a follow-up, Kohli was asked about Test rankings, which he said were merely a byproduct of consistent cricket, and not the team's primary aim. "High standards have different definitions," he said. "The main goal is to play good cricket. Even if we're No. 1 and someone else does better, there's a chance they can overtake you. So that's not our aim. The season is long, and we're playing the same format over a length of time. So there's an opportunity to use this stretch to challenge ourselves. That will give us a chance to assess ourselves and will determine how we play Test cricket over the next few years."
Where Kohli felt the team had benefited most during the week-long camp in Bangalore was in the players' personal interactions with Kumble and the manner in which he may have broken down barriers within the group.
"We haven't had too many camps before, but I feel there's already a lot that the team has benefited from," Kohli said. "If you have experience of facing different situations in the past, you are better equipped. Understanding of skills and understanding of mindset are two different things. Mindset can't be taught, but it comes only when you have faced tough situations, and that's one big difference.
"The information we've got from him about mental adjustments needed to win has been a big boost. He's been more than willing to speak to everyone equally - the pacers, spinners, batsmen - and address their concerns. There's an emotional connect with the coach, no doubt, but it's about how he makes the players feel comfortable. That's what I believe.
"Anil bhai has all those qualities in abundance. There's huge respect within the group for what he's achieved and also because he's been Test captain. He understands that and makes them comfortable, so I feel the combination has settled in beautifully. He's been involved with the players in some way or the other throughout."
Kohli brushed aside concerns over an elbow injury sustained by R Ashwin while batting during the camp, saying he had only suffered a bruise.
When asked about Mohammed Shami's return to the Test side for the first time since recovering from a long-term knee injury, Kohli enthused about his ability to generate reverse-swing. The skill was on display on his debut against West Indies at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, where he returned match figures of 9 for 118 - the best figures by an Indian fast bowler on Test debut.
"Shami is a skillful guy, we all know that. The way he bowls, the way he releases the ball, pitches the ball, it's more or less perfect for Test cricket," Kohli said. "The lines and lengths he bowls are always attacking. The best thing is when it's seaming and swinging, he can bowl conventional lines and lengths. If it's reverse-swinging, he knows exactly where to bring in the ball from. He has a great sense and feel of how to get batsmen out. We have been working with him on the mental strength aspect of his game. More consistency is something we push for him.
"He's eager to prove himself and come back after injury. We've seen when West Indies came to India in 2013, how he brought out his reverse-swing skills. Even in Adelaide in one of the sessions he brought us back into the game with two wickets. So he's always someone on whom we can bank in terms of picking wickets. In short bursts, if you want a good attacking spell, Shami can deliver that for you. He's got pace, a great bouncer - so he's someone we always back because he knows he can take two-three wickets for us at any stage. I'm glad to have him back."