Virat Kohli: Our support spinners didn't 'create enough pressure with the ball'
Kohli affirmed that their "lack of execution is acceptable", as long as the mindset was in the right place
In his assessment of India's efforts during their 227-run defeat to England, captain Virat Kohli said the struggles of supporting spinners Shahbaz Nadeem and Washington Sundar during England's first innings affected India's control of the game, and eventually the result. Nadeem and Sundar, who were both playing their second Tests for India, went at close to four runs per over and took two wickets in 70 overs between them. On the other hand, senior bowlers R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, and Ishant Sharma went at a collective rate of 2.6 as England batted into the seventh session of the match for their 578.
"You need to understand two things in this situation - as a bowling unit, we didn't bowl well collectively," Kohli said. "If you consider the fast bowlers and Ashwin, then yes, we bowled consistently and in good areas. But if Washi and Shahbaz had also bowled such economical spells, then you create more pressure, you cut out 80-90 runs from the opposition. Plus if you see from the batting point of view in the first innings, if you add about 80 runs more, then the match becomes almost equal. So there's no need to overthink it. We just have to continuously build pressure on them. And if we do that, then I have full belief that we'll get the results that we've achieved as a side on many occasions."
In an earlier conversation after the match with broadcaster Star Sports, Kohli affirmed that their "lack of execution is acceptable", as long as the mindset was in the right place; that, Kohli said, was visible in the second innings and that the pressure applied from the bowling unit was good enough, albeit not enough to win the Test.
Nadeem was with India's squad as a standby bowler, and replaced allrounder Axar Patel, who was believed to be a frontrunner for a debut in this Test until he was injured on the eve of the Test. Patel was slated to play a role similar to that of the injured Ravindra Jadeja, and his inclusion might have given India the chance to play wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav. That is, if they would be inclined to drop Sundar, who was one of their heroes in the famous Gabba win on debut and contributed valuable runs in this Test as well. From Kohli, there were no doubts about the bowling line-up India eventually went with, saying Nadeem was the man they had penciled in for the role.
"Not really. Not at all. Because when you're playing two off-spinners, Kuldeep more or less becomes a similar kind of spinner taking the ball away [from the left-handers]," Kohli said. "So you need variety in the bowling attack. We were quite clear on what combination we wanted to play and there are no regrets whatsoever on that decision. And moving forward, we will think of combinations that will bring us variety as a bowling attack and not one-dimensional where the ball is only turning away from the bat. These things are really important to understand." With the exception of Ashwin, and Jadeja to an extent, India have had to chop and change their bowling attack to a huge degree over their last few Tests. At the moment, injuries are keeping Jadeja, Umesh Yadav, and Mohammed Shami out of the squad. But India aren't being bogged down by hypotheticals.
"Well they're not here, so whether they could have or would have is irrelevant," Kohli said in response to a question about the benefits Shami or Yadav might have brought to a Test replete with reverse swing. "Look, we are not a side that goes into what-ifs and what could have been and what should have been. If you're adding to what could have been, then we're talking about someone like Jaddu playing this Test as well - then you're talking about a totally different situation. So let's not go there. Let's be aware of the fact that we have a strong team. We have individuals in front of us who we believe will do the job for the team. And, in one game where the execution hasn't happened, does not mean that it won't happen again.
"So we have to keep believing in our process. We have had a lot of success as a team and we have to believe that as a side if you play good cricket, more good things are gonna happen in the future and not think of what if this payer was here and that player was here. All three of them are injured, so we have bench strength. You saw a true example of that in Australia and we totally believe in the players that we have in the team and we're confident that we're going to bounce back strong. We're really looking forward to being on the field again."
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo