Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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India's Test captain Virat Kohli hailed R Ashwin's impact and Ravindra Jadeja's relentlessness after India's 197-run win over New Zealand in the series and season opener in Kanpur. For a while now Ashwin has hovered around the top in the ICC bowlers' rankings, trading it with Dale Steyn and James Anderson. He is the top-ranked Test allrounder. In India's win he took 10 wickets for 225, including a six-for in the second innings. Jadeja, on the other hand, took a five-for in New Zealand's first innings, scored 42 crucial runs with the tail in India's first-innings and a quick half-century to set up a declaration in the second.
"Ashwin has been outstanding for the Indian team," Kohli said. "If you see all the impact players in the world, he comes in the top three-four easily. There are quite a few players making big impact for their respective sides, especially bowlers. Bowlers are the ones I feel that win you Test matches, and Ashwin is one of them. The rankings - I'm not a big fan of them - suggest that Ashwin is the best at the moment.
"There's no doubt that he's been bowling wonderfully well for the last couple of years. He works very hard on his game. He's a very keen thinker of the game. He likes to talk cricket. He understands the game very well, [he's a] very smart cricketer, very intelligent. That shows in his batting as well. He understands the situation and plays accordingly. He knows when to get runs and when to play the situation out. So it's priceless to have a cricketer like Ashwin in your Test team. He gives balance with both bat and ball. I would wish him all the best that he keeps nurturing his skill so that we can keep dominating Test matches and keep winning Test matches as much as we can."
With the quality of bowlers Kohli had at his disposal, he was confident New Zealand didn't stand a chance to defend their way out for a draw on the final day. The visitors had lost four wickets on Sunday evening and resumed the final day on a score of 93 for 4 facing a target of 434.
"Having batted on that wicket, and all the batsmen will vouch for this, you could not have defended your way out of the game," Kohli said. "On a wicket that spins and bounces, you need to put the bowler under pressure. It is not so much as releasing your own pressure but it's more to put the bowler under pressure and disrupt his lines and lengths. That's a strategy all batsmen will use on a wicket like this.
"It's very similar to a seaming wicket as well. Whenever you get the opportunity you want to get a boundary and put the bowler under pressure [and tell him] that he cannot make a mistake. We knew that it was impossible for them to be defending all day, and we knew that the one odd chance will come. That's all you look forward to. You have to be optimistic and have to be positive in that particular phase when a partnership is going."
The team's confidence in Ashwin and Jadeja let India play with only four bowlers, Kohli said. "Well obviously if you have a bowler of his quality, along with Jadeja who is so accurate…" Kohli said. "We know Kolkata is a much better batting wicket, so we can afford to maybe play an extra bowler there, you never know. But a place where it will help the two quality spinners that we have, and reverse swing coming into play as well - you know two crucial wickets by Mohammed Shami in the second innings, first breakthrough by Umesh Yadav in the first - it makes a massive difference. Those things are also very important moments in the game.
"You obviously have to strengthen your batting on a wicket that might go 50-50. You never know, the game can slip away very quickly. And the extra batsman helped. I mean Rohit got runs in the second innings, pretty solid with Jadeja. Both were able to play positively, and gave us an hour extra to bowl at them. Maybe we would have otherwise declared with our tail-enders batting one hour after tea. But that gave us the whole session yesterday and we got four wickets. So that makes quite a bit of difference. Again, having intelligent people in the change room obviously helps you make better decisions as you go on. You understand the game much more, you understand the combinations much better and you can afford to take smart decisions according to the wicket that you're playing on."
Apart from possibly playing an extra bowler, India could make a change at the top of the order for the Test in Kolkata, which starts from September 30. After he was dismissed in the second innings, KL Rahul played no further part in the Kanpur Test due to a hamstring strain. Soon after the match, Shikhar Dhawan, the reserve opener, was seen having a lot practice session on the centre track. That could be a sign.