On the eve of India's first Test series since an acrimonious coach swap, Virat Kohli spoke of a tight-knit team as the biggest success of his captaincy apart from the rise to No. 1. He spoke of the "outstanding bond" when asked what satisfied him most apart from the obvious winning feeling.
"Just to see the responsibility taken by such a young bunch of players; to go out there and make a difference for the team," Kohli said. "Even the substitutes that sit on the sidelines, their efforts, their energies, their concerns for the team when they are running in to provide to with the essentials… It's great to see them also almost feeling like they are part of the playing XI that's on the field.
"That's the kind of culture that has been created. It's taken a while. Whoever steps into the dressing room, immediately feel comfortable because of the way they are embraced and how people are taking responsibility to maintain that culture. The bond within the team is outstanding and that is something that makes me really proud that we are all really close to each other and really enjoy playing alongside each other. That for me stands out the most because that shows on the field. Even in the most difficult of situations all guys believe that we can do it together and we have been able to overturn situations more often than not just because of that belief and the trust that we have between the players. So, that for me is most special thing apart from cricket performances."
That is perhaps why Kohli sees not many weaknesses in his side. "Well I don't think there are any massive areas of concern for us," he said. "We've been looking to fine-tune smaller areas during the course of the games, which probably people might not be able to pick up. [Areas] that can lead us into a situation which is not ideal. We have given responsibility to the players to identify those areas and work on those areas themselves. We have been able to put ourselves in a position in games, 80-85% of the games, where there's only one winner left.
"That's the kind of sustained pressure that we've been able to build. But the key, as I said, is to go out there and repeat those things again and again. You can't expect things to happen by themselves. You need to work hard every ball that you play on the cricket field and that applies to batsmen and bowlers collectively. So, the smaller areas we keep identifying and keep working on them."
With the confidence running that high, there is an obvious danger of letting the guard drop against Sri Lanka, who have not had the best of time in Test cricket of late. "For us we are playing a game of cricket, it doesn't matter which opposition we are playing against," Kohli said. "For us it's all about identifying the players that they have, their strengths, their areas of weakness and focussing really on our performances and what we can do as a team. The moment you start focussing on the opposition and try to adjust your intensity according to who you are playing against, then that's a very dangerous thing to do because if you don't respect the game the game will sort you out and expose you.
"We totally respect the game, we totally how hard we need to work to win every Test match, every situation, every session and every ball is an event for us. So we are willing to put in the hard yards for that and something that everyone in the team respects. As I said it's something that is built as a culture and I am proud of it and the whole team is proud of it. We take a lot of pride in playing Test cricket for India and doing the hard yards that win the games."