India Test skipper Virat Kohli has been phenomenal in keeping the morale high within the group, head coach Rahul Dravid said on Sunday ahead of the second Test match against South Africa starting in Johannesburg and also added that he felt a good run of form with the bat is around the corner.
The former India captain was asked about how it has been to keep the group in good spirits with noises on the outside.
“I know there’s been a lot of noise on other issues outside of the group, even leading into this particular Test match. But honestly keeping the morale high hasn’t been very difficult, it is led by the skipper himself. I think Virat has been phenomenal over the last 20 days we’ve been here,” Dravid said on Sunday.
“The way he has trained and prepared, the way he has connected with the group has been fantastic inspite of all the noise around him. As a coach sometimes, leading into the series there’s not much you can do once the game starts. As support staff we are looking to prepare well and get the team into a good space and Virat has been phenomenal the way he’s led the team.
“I couldn’t speak more highly about him, the way he’s committed to his own preparation and practice, and also just the way on and off the field he’s connected with the team. Been a true leader, that’s helped in creating a good space and lot of that was led by Virat and leadership came to the fore. It’s not been hard, it’s been a pleasure to work with him.”
Kohli has now gone two calendar years in international cricket without a century but Dravid added that a big run of scores was just around the corner for the captain.
“Even personally I think he is in a good space and though he couldn’t convert starts after batting well, I really feel there is a big run of scores coming from him. Just observing him around the group, and how switched on he is. Might not happen in the next game, and I really hope it happens in the next game, but I do feel we are going to see a really big run of scores, once that clicks in place. He’s been a real credit to himself and to Indian cricket, over these two weeks inspite of all the noise that’s been around him,” the 48-year-old said.
Kohli has been in the middle of a controversy since his last press conference before departing for South Africa, speaking about his white-ball captaincy. There have been to’s and froth’s regarding the matter but the captain hasn’t spoken to the media since.
Asked, why he has not addressed the media so far in the tour, Dravid said with a smile, “There is no specific reason for that I think. I don’t decide who speaks in the press conference but I am told (by the BCCI media team) that he will be speaking on eve of his 100th Test in Cape Town. It can be a big event where you can all celebrate him and ask all the questions on his 100th Test. There is no other reason as far as I know and it’s not like he’s not been speaking to the media otherwise,” Dravid said.
Kohli’s 100th Test would be the third match against South Africa in Cape Town from January 11.
Dravid said that his side had room for improvement ahead of the second Test against South Africa starting at the Wanderers Stadium on Monday.
Dravid sent out a clear message that there was no room for complacency following India’s 113-run win in the first Test in Centurion. He praised the Indian bowlers for twice bowling out South Africa for under 200 and gave credit to KL Rahul for setting up the game with his batting on the first day.
“It’s not very often you come to overseas conditions and get to 272 for three on the first day,” he said. “We know we could probably have got more (runs). To get bowled out for 327, that’s something we’d like to improve.”
Dravid added that India could also have batted better in the second innings, when they were dismissed for 174.
“It was a good Test match but there are areas where we can learn and improve because we know we are going to have to do it in this game.”
Ajinkya Rahane, whose form has been a talking point in recent times, also got a start in the first Test but could not convert into a big score. Dravid was asked if long periods in bio-bubbles could be affecting the concentration of both Kohli and Rahane.
“It could be a variety of factors. There are phases in your career where probably you feel you’re batting well, but the big scores don’t necessarily come. It happens to everyone, Just so happens it is happening for 2-3 at the same time,” Dravid said.
“...but I think the heartening point, the good point is really that they seem to be batting well. So it’s just a matter of time.”
Cheteshwar Pujara too is in the middle of worrying form but Dravid said he is not concerned for now.
“I hate using the word concerned. He’s doing the best he can...he would like to score more runs as he has set really nice standards. He’s achieved a lot of success in his in the 10 years... sometimes it doesn’t happen. And it’s not a question about being worried...But when you do get set, it’s really nice if one of your top three or top four can convert that into a big score.
“We saw the value of that in (KL) Rahul’s hundred (in the first Test,” said Dravid.
India enjoy a good record at Wanderers, having won two Tests and drawn three since 1992. Dravid could not pinpoint the exact reason for the team’s impressive record here.
“...maybe the bounce is not as much as centurion...but it’s just a strange one. I can’t exactly put a finger on what reason,” said Dravid, who also scored his first Test hundred at the same venue back in 1997.
India's Test matches in Johannesburg
|draw||-||lost||2nd||Johannesburg||26 Nov 1992|
|draw||-||won||1st||Johannesburg||16 Jan 1997|
|won||123 runs||won||1st||Johannesburg||15 Dec 2006|
|draw||-||won||1st||Johannesburg||18 Dec 2013|
|won||63 runs||won||1st||Johannesburg||24 Jan 2018|
Dravid was also high praise for his bowlers.
“I thought the last game was superb...We bowled beautiful lengths in the first innings, we were able to go slightly different lengths in the second innings depending on the wicket and the conditions. That’s really down to the skill of the bowlers.
“The bowlers are able to change the kind of lengths that they need to bowl even mid innings...You can’t just go one particular length with the red kookaburra ball and you can’t bowl the same length in the 60th over,” he said.
Watch the full press conference here.
(With PTI and AFP inputs)