Virat Kohli: I can't just stand in slips and go through the motions
India captain will take decision on playing tour match based on "how I wake up tomorrow" and "if I feel great"
Virat Kohli could miss India's three-day warm-up match before the day-night Test in Adelaide. Most players in the team will come to the day-night Test with only one prior experience of playing first-class cricket in the night, in the Test against Bangladesh. However, having played six limited-overs internationals in 12 days, Kohli doesn't want to risk being less than 100% for the Test, the only one he will play before departing for paternity leave.
"Let's see how I wake up tomorrow," Kohli said at the post-match presentation after the final T20I at the SCG. "You know, I can't play half and half. That's me. I can't just stand in slips and go through the motions. I need to wake up in the morning and see. If I feel great, I'll definitely play. If not, I'll speak to the physio and trainer and get a few days off and be fresh for the first Test."
Each player has his own ideas of preparation, and Kohli has generally not been a fan of less-than-peak-intensity warm-up games. He prefers shorter, sharper and intense nets sessions instead. Add to that the strain the players must be going through having left their homes well before the IPL and moving from bubble to bubble and playing all the cricket that they have.
"I think before we go into the first Test, the feeling that we'll want to have is that our games are at an acceptable level," Kohli said later at the press conference. "But more important than that is that you're physically fresh. We can't afford the slightest of niggles or muscle strains. That is the biggest priority for us: to keep our main players physically fit. To start the Test series well, we will need our fittest 11 players on the field."
This was perhaps the reason India's main fast bowlers took it easy during the first warm-up game, which, for a change, happened to be a high-intensity proper first-class match against a strong Australia A side. In the end, Wriddhiman Saha and last-man Kartik Tyagi had to dig deep to avoid a loss to Australia A inside three days.
"You don't want guys starting the Test match feeling sore or feeling like their legs have had too many miles in them," Kohli said. "So we keep constantly communicating with the bowlers, asking them how their bodies are feeling, and they've been pretty professional and pretty good in communicating back what they need. We need to show absolute trust and faith in their processes and make sure they're in the right headspace heading into the first Test."
The three-day fixture at SCG is nonetheless an important opportunity to get used to playing with the pink ball in Australia and also sort out questions around their combination. Mayank Agarwal, who played neither the T20Is nor the first warm-up fixture, will want to get used to opening in long form again, especially keeping in mind how Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill didn't make a big score in his absence. India will also need to start looking at and grooming Kohli's replacement for the last three Tests.
It will be interesting to see if Rishabh Pant gets a chance to present a case for himself after he was left out for the first match. In his absence, Saha made those crucial runs to save India's blushes. Umesh Yadav will look to build on the good work done and seal his place as the third seamer.
However, for India to try all of their options, they might have to request to change the status of the game from a proper first-class match, as it stood a day before, to just a tour game where they are allowed to play as many players as long as only 11 bat and field. Australia seem to have chosen their A side keeping in mind a proper first-class match, but hosts are generally accommodating if the visitors make such a request.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo