Mohammed Siraj’s rise in international cricket is no surprise for India captain Virat Kohli who said the pacer’s confidence has now risen to a level where he believes that he can get any batsman out at any point of a match.
The youngest pacer in a lethal quartet, also comprising Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma, the 27-year-old has taken 11 wickets in the first two Tests of the ongoing series against England.
His line, length and control has troubled batsmen consistently. Eight of his 11 wickets came at the Lord’s Test that India won by 151 runs.
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Kohli said the tour of Australia took Siraj’s confidence to another level.
“I was not surprised at all (with his growth) because I have seen him from close quarters. He is a guy who has always had the skill. You need the confidence to back that skill, the Australia series provided him with that boost and confidence,” Kohli said at a press conference on the eve of the third Test.
“He is walking around knowing he can get anyone out at any stage and the belief in his game has been elevated to another level, hence you see results of what he is doing,” the skipper added.
Kohli also said that Siraj’s confidence makes him flamboyant.
“I am really happy to see him coming into his own, he is going to be this kind of a bowler, who is in your face and who is looking to get guys out and who is not scared, he is not going to take a backward step.”
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When asked to explain what are the challenges of batting in English conditions, where the ball seams and swings consistently, Kohli gave an honest opinion.
“You can never say in England that now you are set. You have to leave your ego in your pocket and come to the crease. The conditions are not same as they are in other places where you reach 30-40 and know that you can pick balls for your shots,” he said.
“You have to bat the same way you bat for your first 30 runs and then repeat the same template till it is possible. Discipline and patience are required in England. If you are not patient in England you can get out at anytime, no matter how experienced you are or how many runs you have under your belt. You need good decision making because the conditions in England are toughest in the world, in my opinion,” he added.
Kohli was also full of praise for India’s openers – Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul – and expected them to continue their good form.
Rohit (36, 12, 83 and 21) and Rahul (84, 26, 129, 5) have given India solid platforms so far in the series.
“The opening combination, when you are playing overseas, is one of the most important factors. So, the way KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma have played has been outstanding and we hope that they continue in the same manner.
“To set out the right platform from where the team can build on, which is what they provided us in both the Tests so far, is definitely a big boost for us,” he said.
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Kohli also said he had expected a different pitch at Lord’s than what the teams eventually encountered. He also explained the thinking behind senior off-spinner Ashwin Ravichandran’s exclusion from the playing XI for the second Test.
“We were quite surprised to see the pitch the way it was, honestly I did not expect it and I thought there would be more grass. Anything is possible, we name a 12 and on the day, we have a look at the pitch, accordingly, we will go in with the right combination.”
In terms of the team combination for the third Test, Kohli said: “We don’t have any reason to change anything. Unless anyone has a niggle which hasn’t been the case over the past few days. There’s no reason to change a winning combination.”
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Asked if rival skipper Joe Root would be under pressure, since England could not dismiss Shami and Bumrah in the second innings at Lord’s, Kohli backed his counterpart.
“I don’t know what an individual’s mindset is. You can make mistakes in planning at any given stage of the match, it does not necessarily mean you are under pressure. You just take a decision, which in hindsight does not prove to be correct. As captain, you always try to make the right decision and I am sure he was trying to do the same. If it’s not right, you take it on chin and move ahead as he did,” said Kohli.
Inputs from PTI