India are all set to start their red-ball campaign against England on Wednesday (August 1). Cricket fans are keenly waiting to see the numero uno Test side getting tested in adverse English conditions.
In particular, there is a plenty of anticipation concerning the duel between England bowlers and Virat Kohli, who is yet to prove his mettle in Test cricket on English soil. With just 134 runs in five Test matches at a dismal average of 13.40, doing well in England is a top priority for the Indian captain.
Addressing the media on the eve of the first Test in Birmingham, Virat made it clear that he is not going to be bogged down by the horrible memories of 2014 tour.
"Back in the day when I did not know better, these things used to bother me because I used to read a lot. But honestly, I genuinely do not read anything (anymore)," Kohli told reporters.
Earlier this year, Kohli had a sensational tour of South Africa. After being 2-0 down in the Test series, Kohli led the team from the front in the third and final Test at Wanderers to seal a history 63-run victory. From then on, India’s winning juggernaut didn’t stop as they secured both the limited-overs series with utmost ease.
While the Men in Blue clinched the six-match one-day international series with a stunning margin of 5-1, they won the three-match ODI series 2-1. Virat was the highest run-getter in both Test and ODI series from the either side. The Indian captain had scored 286 runs at an average of 47.66 on some of the most difficult wickets in three Tests and then followed it up with 558 runs at an average of 186 in 6 ODIs.
"I genuinely don't know what's going on. After the first two Tests in South Africa, I had no idea what was going on. My only focus was on my preparation and where the team has to head and if I waste my energy on all these things, then I am compromising my mindset already,” he added.
Since the dismal tour of England four years ago, Virat has amassed 15 Test hundreds including six double hundreds. He is the only man now to have scored double hundreds in four successive Test series. As a captain, Kohli has had a sensational run, winning 21 out of 35 Test.
"When I walk out to bat, I have the bat in mind, not people on the outside who predict things. I need to be in the most convinced and clear mental space that I can be and that happens when I am focussed on what I need to do,” Kohli remarked.
"I did not think 10 years ago I was going to be sitting here in my career so I have no complaints whatsoever and I am not in a frame of mind to prove myself in any country. I just want to perform for the team and take the team forward," he further said.
Kohli also mentioned that self-belief was the key to doing well in tough conditions.
"You focus on what you need to do. You need to have total belief in your own ability. We need to keep working hard on that. It all boils down to belief. If you have belief, you can score hundreds on a green pitch as well. In the last three years, I have been pretty comfortable with my headspace," he said.
The Indian captain asserted that team is well prepared for the opening Test at Edgbaston.
"We are well prepared. The guys who played the ODIs have been here for a while and the Test specialists have also had good practice.. A few of them have played for India A and we had a good practice game. We are in a good frame of mind and we are excited to play a five-Test series.. In a longer series, we can be patient and we are relaxed and in a good space," he stated.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who averages 26.63 with the ball in Test matches in England, was left out from the 18-member squad for the first three Tests after he aggravated his back problem by playing in the third ODI at Leeds. Kumar’s injury is a huge blow for India given that Jasprit Bumrah is still to recover from his thumb injury. Although Bumrah has been picked in the Test squad, he will only be considered for selection from the second Test onwards.
With both Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah being ruled out of the first Test, the trio of Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami will have to carry the additional responsibility. Moreover, rookie Shardul Thakur and all-rounder Hardik Pandya are also there in the squad.
"Our bowling attack has matured over the years. We have played many games all over the world. They are pretty matured about their game. Our bowlers have come a long way since we toured all these countries; they understand a lot more about bowling in partnerships now," Virat commented.
The India captain also made it clear that he will select the playing XI as per his gut feeling.
"It all boils down to your gut feel. If five people on the table agree, then there are no ifs and buts. If we take a decision, then there's no looking back. We do not hold on to any decisions we have made. In Test cricket, what matters is the balance of the side because the game is so long. We need to discuss what the best balance is," Kohli concluded.