In the aftermath of a humbling defeat at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, where India’s batsmen flattered to deceive twice, Virat Kohli reckoned they weren’t competitive enough. India batted first in windy conditions and folded for 165, and then suffered a collapse in their second innings on Day 4, falling from 144 for 4 to 191 all out.
“This is a game where we didn’t show enough competitiveness. In the past, we have known we have played good cricket even when we have lost, and we have been in the game. But I think we let ourselves down massively with the bat in the first innings.
“You could say the toss played a big role in the Test match but that’s uncontrollable, so you can’t focus on that and take that as a massive factor. But having said that, the first innings performance pushed us back. We knew the conditions were going to keep getting better.
“So if you get 230 or 240 in the first innings of the Test match, then you are giving your bowlers a chance. In the second innings, deficit also becomes smaller.”
To make matters worse for India, they were once again frustrated by an opposition tail, as New Zealand recovered from 225 for 7 – when their lead was just 60 runs – and managed 348. Kohli admitted his bowlers had done really well until they picked the first seven wickets, but what followed pushed his side further behind the eight-ball. The plan to restrict the lead to under 100 was thwarted by Colin de Grandhomme’s fight (43) and some lower-order belligerance from Trent Boult (38) and Kyle Jamieson (44) that dragged NZ’s lead to 183.
“That first innings put us behind and then the lead put us under more pressure. As a bowling group, we have been pretty good. The wicket did get better. Till the first 7 NZ wickets, we were really good. Wanted to restrict the lead to under 100, but the last runs from their batsmen made things difficult,” Kohli said.
We have faced attacks in the past as well with a lot of variety. We played in South Africa with Morne (Morkel), (Dale) Steyn and (Vernon) Philander all in the side. So we’ve faced those kind of attacks. But it was a strange pitch. I was talking to Kane as well. It wasn’t seaming around, wasn’t troubling us with swing. But it was slow on the drier side. So you were not able to get the shots away. And I think to be honest, lack of pace is something that cost us more than something like being intimidated [by pace] or being bowled out by an attack. It played perfectly into their plans because they feed off bowling on one spot for long periods and having fielders close in. Unless you take them on, that field is not going to change. I think the way they bowled was very accurate and the pace of the pitch also allowed them to keep bowling there because it wasn’t easy to get those shots away. To be honest, they did not give us any room, on the front-foot or the back-foot, so we have to accept that they outplayed us this game and they bowled much better than we did, and put enough pressure on us understanding the wicket well, which you expect them to do, playing in their conditions. But I think going forward we understand what they would like to do and it’s our job as batsmen to try and disrupt it so that as soon as possible we put enough runs on the board.
The Indian captain also rued the fact that India couldn’t dictate terms at any stage of the game, particularly with the bat, and allowed New Zealand to execute their plans comfortably in both the innings. He reckoned the Indian batsmen couldn’t find the delicate balance between when to go after the bowling and when to defend – an aspect that they’ve brought to their game a lot in the recent past.
“We have to understand and accept that New Zealand bowled really well in this Test match in both innings although in first innings there was a bit more assistance but in the second innings, that’s been their strength. They set fields accordingly, get into the mind of the batsmen and make the batsmen do something that they don’t want to. I think that’s a very thin line and a very delicate balance of when to attack and when to put bowlers under pressure which we failed to do in this match and there is no harm in accepting that.
“We have done that on many occasions but this was a Test match where we were not able to do it. That has got to do with partly good bowling from New Zealand and partly us not pressing that momentum on to them when required. It was perfect for them because they bowled well and we allowed them to bowl well for longer periods rather than doing something about it in a partnership,” Kohli said.
Further dissection of India’s poor batting returns in this Test also reveals Kohli’s ‘slump’ as he managed 2 and 19 in the two innings. The entire tour itself has not been a happy one for the captain, as far as scoring runs is concerned, but he isn’t losing any sleep over what’s being perceived of this dip in form.
“I’m absolutely fine. I am batting really well. I feel that sometimes scores don’t reflect the way you are batting and that’s what can happen when you don’t execute what you want to well. Look when you play so much cricket and you play for so long, obviously you’ll have 3-4 innings that don’t go your way. If you try and make too much out of it, it’ll keep piling on. I think it’s about staying in a good space and I know the chat on the outside changes with one innings. But I don’t think like that. If I thought like people on the outside, I would probably be on the outside right now.”
With four days of turnaround time before the second and the last Test, in Christchurch, Kohli isn’t looking for technical tweaks in the games of his batsmen. Instead, he wants more of them to take responsibility individually when they head out to bat.
“It’s all about clarity of mind and taking responsibility individually when you walk out to bat. I feel as a batsman you should not wait for a message from outside to execute something in the middle. I think it’s about understanding what you want to do as a batsman, and if that doesn’t come off then you say fine, I didn’t do it in this innings. But if 6-7 people can think like that, for sure 2-3 people will come good,” he said.
The teams next travel south to Christchurch, where the second and the final Test of the series commences from Saturday (February 29).