Virat Kohli has said he would love to play county cricket in the lead-up to the tour of England in 2018, but only a short stint might be possible with current schedules. Kohli wanted at least a month's time to get used to conditions, but the IPL ends in the last week of May, and India tours to the UK generally start in the last week of June.
"If I have a chance, I would love to do that; love to be there, say a month or a month and a half and get used to playing in those conditions, understand how the wickets behave in that particular phase of the year," Kohli said. "I think those things matter a lot. Preparation time is something, which is very crucial for any side. So yeah, if I have the opportunity to go there a few days before the start that will be great. I have actually been thinking about it, trying to work out how I can make it happen. Most definitely, if I have the time I'll go and play there."
This was a great sign from the captain of a side that had become blasé about the lack of preparation time before Test tours in the recent years. If Kohli manages to squeeze in even a couple of county games before the first Test in 2018 - as opposed to nothing - he would be better equipped to handle the swing and seam prevalent in English grounds. In the 2014 tour, Kohli scored 134 runs at 13.4 in India's 3-1 defeat.
India have bounced back from that crisis with five successive series wins, but Kohli knew the regrouping won't be complete, that his side won't match his ambition, until it did well in certain conditions.
"We still understand we have to play a lot of cricket everywhere in the world," he said. "It's not only about this one period we are going through. It looks really good because we have come out of transition and immediately started winning games. But I wouldn't take it as overconfidence. It's an on-going process, which needs to be sustained for the next five to seven or eight years for us to become a top-quality side and leave a mark on world cricket; maybe be known as one of the best teams to have assembled on the field.
"We want to do it across formats and make that mark for Indian cricket on the world stage. But it requires a lot of persistence and skill, a lot of hard work on your fitness, and those are the key factors that will decide where we go as a unit and as a team. We don't feel invincible, to be honest. We respect every opposition, we admit it every time we are put under pressure, and we know teams are going to put us under pressure. We appreciate that, we accept that and we try to find a way out of it. I think that's been key for us, and it's a process that should go on for another seven or eight years."
Kohli spoke of his own batting with similar modesty. He has scored three double-centuries this year, has 640 runs in this series, has played scarcely believable knocks in limited-overs internationals too, and broke every record in the IPL. But he considered Joe Root, Kane Williamson and Steven Smith as better batsmen in Test cricket. Kohli, who was No. 2 on the ICC Test rankings, felt the four of them raising the bar for each other enriched the sport.
"They [the fans] put us in a group of young players coming up in world cricket," Kohli said. "That healthy competition is great for the game. People like talking about it. It is a great topic of debate. I see people enjoy talking about it a lot and they mention it to me as well. "You four-five players are exciting to watch" and those sort of things. You feel good you are in a bunch of batsmen that is taking world cricket forward, not just having that healthy rivalry between us.
"As an individual, I don't focus on those things. It is a massive distraction. When you are going through a good phase, you want see the rankings, you want to see what people are talking about, 'am I in the race,' and stuff like that. But you get so addicted to it that when you are not doing well, and saying things backfires and it can really put you down. To me all these are world-class players, and I have always rated each one of them higher than me, in Test cricket especially, because of the way they have performed in the last two or three years.
"I understood my limitations and never tried to outdo them in the longest format of the game. In shorter formats, yes, I have been doing very well. I understood what I needed to do in the longest format for me to be able to contribute the maximum for my team. That's been my aim. My aim was never to go about Joe or Steve or Kane. I respect them equally and I think there is equal amount of respect between all of us, David [Warner] included. All of us understand and like our games."
Kohli has scored runs in Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies. If he doesn't rate himself as highly as the other three in Tests, his performance in England must be the only reason behind it. County cricket could go a long way in correcting it.