Ravichandran Ashwin has defended the Indian batsmen after the visitors suffered a heart-breaking 31-run defeat in the first Test against England at Edgbaston on Saturday (August 4).
Chasing 194, Kohli stood out again with a solid half-century (51) but lacked support at the other end, as India were bundled out for 162.
"When you make runs and pick up wickets, you want to make sure that it is a killer blow (to the opposition) and you want to end up on the winning side. It gives you more pleasure out of the game and when it doesn't happen, you feel a little deflated about it. This game was like a see-saw battle and there was enough in there for the pacers," Ashwin said while addressing the media after the match.
"So they were always in the game and you do expect batsmen to get a ball that has their name on it. With that sort of a game hedging on the balance, I thought we competed really well throughout. There are a lot of things to be upbeat about, so (I am) not completely feeling deflated," he added.
Kohli was the lone warrior for India in the first innings as well, scoring a gritty 149 in the team total of 274. He garnered 92 runs from the last two wickets, only six of which were provided by his partners.
Ashwin defended the struggle of other Indian batsmen, saying: "It was quite a tough pitch to bat on. I don't think batsmen from both sides were able to make runs with a lot of freedom barring the partnership between Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow in the first innings, and then Virat Kohli from our side. It has been quite a struggle that way so I think we need to give batsmen some space."
"This was a game where we would have liked to finish on the winning side. No doubt about it. But there are a lot of things we can feel proud of at the end of this game. It's a long test series so to feel defeated or pained so early on in the series is unfair," he elaborated.
India were 110/5 in their second innings, needing a further 84 runs to reach their victory target of 194, at stumps on Day 3. However, James Anderson dented the hopes of tourist by claiming Karthik’s wicket in the very first over of the fourth day. Karthik managed to add only two runs to his overnight score of 18.
The duo of Kohli and Hardik Pandya added a 29-run partnership for the sixth wicket to keep India in the hunt. Needing 53 runs to win, Virat was trapped LBW by Ben Stokes for 51 and after that, it was just the formalities left for the home team.
While Adil Rashid trapped Ishant Sharma LBW for 11, Stokes got rid of Shami (0) and Pandya (31) to seal the deal for the hosts.
"When Virat and Dinesh (Karthik) walked out I genuinely believed we had the aces in our hands. And that wicket the first blow was quite crucial. Our talk in the morning was about trying to stick together and be behind every one that walks out to bat. I thought we did pretty well, and even when Umesh (Yadav) was batting, our hopes were alive,” Ashwin remarked.
"We did think that if Hardik could lay his hands on a couple big shots we were in the game. I have been on tours since 2011 and that way this team has got a really positive vibe in terms of at least believing that we can pull it off from any stage. We have done it in the past, particularly in the last three or four away tours that we have been on. (But) If you have to win a Test series in England, that too a five-Test series, we will have to pull off something special at some stage," he further said.
Even though India’s batting line-up failed to live up to the expectations, bowlers came to the party once again. Continuing where they left off in South Africa, Indian bowlers claimed 20 English wickets, with Ashwin picking up seven wickets in the match.
"Personally there were quite a few learnings (sic) from my stint last year here. Not just in terms of pure skill but also how the game is being read here, how players go about their business in terms of pacing out their innings, how much the Duke's ball does in the first 40 overs, etc. Those are the learnings (sic) I had and as a spinner I feel the ball is definitely different to Kookaburra and SG. I think Duke's is number one, Kookaburra is second, and SG is number three on the list (of spinner's preference) where it stands today. And how wide my grip can be, how close I can get to it as the ball moves on and I felt like the ball was slipping also when I came last time for Worcester. So that was also in my mind when I came this time," Ashwin asserted.
"I have just decided to enjoy my cricket and stop reading about anything. I think that's a good way to fire myself up. My personal experience in the last 59 Tests has been the same and it is not going to be any different moving forward because as the game comes to an end I find myself at the end of the same circle. And the circle moves back to the starting point. I will ideally keep myself at the same starting point to keep the circle going," he concluded.
(With PTI inputs)