This series began with Virat Kohli as India's temporary captain and will end with his being India's permanent captain. Ravi Shastri has been around throughout. Aggression has thus been the buzzword. Those who are expecting a magic wand to wave over and transform India will do well to be reminded the bowlers remain the same. The same men who have failed to sustain pressure for MS Dhoni. It's an attack where the loose ball is never too far away. The real test for an India captain is to provide new results with the same attack. Kohli began the task by throwing his weight behind the bowlers, saying the batsmen need to share some of the blame.
"Consistency is something we have to improve on," Kohli said. "Sometimes we are too harsh on our bowlers. There have been times in England as well where the batting has failed, and in this sport you need a lot of honesty. We should stand up and say that we didn't do our job properly. Sometimes we are too harsh on our bowlers.
"When our bowlers get hit it is always about bad bowling, when their bowlers are hit it was good batting. I don't understand where the problem lies. Sometimes they might have bowled not up to the mark, but our bowlers are always under the scanner. Let's not be too critical of them. They are young. What I saw in MCG was a good sign of what you need in Test cricket - when you are tired, bowl a tight spell, that's what the best teams in the world do. Coming back into the game at important moments. The first spells have been good, and when they improve their second and third spells can change the game. You will see different results."
Kohli's assessment of the bowlers is not too different from the start of the series, when he sounded extremely excited about the presence of three 140-plus bowlers. "Still think that if you have three bowlers who can bowl 140-plus that is a positive," Kohli said. "At the end of the day it is about bowling in the right areas in those important situations, that's where your composure comes in the second or third spells. The guys know that, we just need to give them that breathing space in Test cricket because once you get a combination right and when you get the guys on the same page it is a very delightful journey that you enjoy winning situations/moments.
"The guys are pretty close to that, to see that happen sooner than later, and in this game we don't need to do much different than bowl consistently in the right areas. The fact that they have improved in the MCG Test, especially in the second innings when they were tired, shows that this can be done. So it is just about locking that in their brains and doing it every time the team needs them to do it."
Kohli said he has reflected on the Adelaide Test, and has learnt the lessons he needs to learn. "There were quite a few things from Adelaide that I sat down and analysed which can be improved upon," Kohli said. "I have thought about them in the past few days, that what are the things that I can correct from Adelaide, the mistakes I have made in that game. Hopefully I'll get those right and try to make the right decisions in every situation out there in the middle.
"Plus, I don't think there needs to be a major change. The message was plain and simple in Adelaide: go out there, back yourself, express yourself, play positively and play to win. So, there's nothing special I need to say again to the boys because everyone is on the same page and you have seen it with the way we have played in this series. We have always looked to be positive. What we could have done better is win those important moments and that's something I think we need to improve as a Test team. Once you get that composure right in those difficult situations, where the Test matches are won or lost in an hour or about 40 minutes, you will see a very different Test team and different results as well."
Kohli might not want to change things too much, but things are changing fast. This could also be the last Test as India coach for Duncan Fletcher, whose contract comes up for review at the end of the World Cup. Like the erring bowlers, Fletcher, too, experienced Kohli's support. He even suggested it might be down to Flethcer if he wants to continue or not. "He has done a very good job with all the young players in the team," Kohli said. "The players who have played in the past, the senior players, won't require as much help as compared to the youngsters. With the youngsters he has been really good with the technical part of the game and improving small little things in our games.
"It makes a big difference when we go out there to play in international cricket, especially because of the kind of experience he has had with a lot of teams. I have personally certainly enjoyed him being coach and all the youngsters and all the players that have played under him have also enjoyed because you get a lot of input. But at the end of the day it's an individual's call [to continue or not]. What I want and what other players want [doesn't matter], at the end of the day what matters is his personal decision. We just have to wait and watch what happens at that point of time, but I have really enjoyed playing under Duncan Fletcher."