Having spent two months in the UK, India are "definitely better prepared" for the five-Test series in England, but Virat Kohli believes the visitors cannot cross the line if they don't find a way to execute their plans in "situations which are not easy". More than winning the Pataudi Trophy, a feat India last achieved under the leadership of Rahul Dravid in 2007, Kohli said the challenge for his team was to win in "situations which are not ours".
This is Kohli's fourth tour of England and second as captain. In 2011 he came in as a replacement for Yuvraj Singh during the series, but did not play any Test. In 2014, James Anderson made him feel like the loneliest guy in the world. Four years later, Kohli returned as the best batter across both teams and the only one to make an aggregate of 500-plus runs. India, though, lost the series 4-1 having started on equal footing alongside England.
Three years after that, Kohli's India have been rated as firm favorites by all and sundry against an England side without Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes. In a chat with the Indian media on Monday, former India captain Sunil Gavaskar even said India had the potential to win 4-0 if the conditions were dry in August and September.
Kohli, though, was not interested in looking too far ahead. Asked on Tuesday what it would mean to win the Test series in England, he remained impassive.
"It is a very relative question," Kohli said. "I have never really played for any kind of landmark or milestones in my career. Every game in international cricket has been an opportunity for me to test myself and my character and how mentally strong I am and how much skill level I have to be able to sustain at this level for a long period of time. And things are going to be no different this series as well - we are going to play with the same passion, same commitment, same belief that we play every series with.
"(The question of) a few series matter more than others - I don't really believe in these things because then you are really picking and choosing what you want to do. That is not being honest with the game. For us it is all about wanting difficult cricket, wanting tough cricket, and wanting to win in conditions which are not ours. That is the only challenge that I see."
India have been in the country since June 2, arriving early to play the World Test Championship final against New Zealand. They had a three-week break after the final, post which they played a warm-up match in Durham. The time spent has also meant better acclimatisation to the English weather.
"We are definitely much better prepared than we have been in the past," Kohli said. "The situation allowed us to get acclimatised to the weather firstly because it can change quite drastically and quite quickly. At the same time playing under different changes in conditions in terms of weather - whether it is overcast, or it is sunny, how the pitches behave, how the ball travels, how much it swings in the air. All those kinds of things are definitely going to add to our experience which already the team possesses a lot of, having played in England in the past.
"It all boils down to execution in crunch moments and that purely comes from belief and how badly you want to be in situations which are not easy. As long as we are looking to embrace that we will find answers to all the questions thrown at us. Otherwise you cannot play at this level for a long period if you are not literally wanting to be in situations which are absolutely opposite to what your comfort zone is."
One of the reasons behind the 2018 series loss was how India lost the key moments to England. Kohli admitted it was an area of concern.
"As a team we looked to improve. We haven't done well and that is one aspect of the game we need to get better, which is understanding when things are not going your way, how to control damage. That's what Test cricket is all about: you have to go through situations and then eventually capitalise when things turn your way as well. Because you are not going to have all sessions turn your way. When things do not favour you as a team, that's an area we want to keep improving at and the Test matches that we have done that well we have ended up winning. It all boils down to execution in those difficult moments."
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo