India captain Virat Kohli on Tuesday said that he no longer considers Australia cricketers his friends, after being targeted both on and off the field by them in a fiercely-fought Test series that his team won.
At the end of the rubber, which India won 2-1, an Australian journalist asked Kohli if he still considered Steve Smith’s men his friends off the field as he had said at the start of the series. “I thought that was the case, but it has changed for sure,” Kohli said. “In the heat of the battle, you want to be competitive, but yeah I have been proven wrong. The thing I said before the first Test, I have certainly been proven wrong and you won’t hear me say that ever again.”
Kohli also categorically stated that his side will give it back as good as they get, whether they are winning or losing. “Regardless of whether we are on top or not, we speak,” he said. “If something pokes us, we speak and give it right back. All people don’t digest it well, but we take it very well and we give it back even better.”
The India captain also took on some of the vitriol that the overseas media, specifically Australia’s, has spewed over the past few weeks. Kohli was infamously compared to United States President Donald Trump by an Australian daily. “Some people want to create some spice sitting at some part of the world,” Kohli said. “They don’t confront such situations themselves. The easiest thing to do is to just sit at home and write a blog or speak, but to go out there and bowl and bat is different.”
Despite winning 10 of the 13 Tests during the home season, Kohli laid down the marker for the year ahead, calling for his team to win matches away from home, “It is a classic case of understanding that this is not the end of anything. No need to get over excited with whatever we have done”
“We are very happy with No 1 ranking in the world but our main challenge begins now. If we can conquer the overseas season, that’s when you will see a broader smile on my face when I sit down for the press conference.”
The results of improved fitness
Kohli praised his team’s resolve to bounce back after going behind in the series. “I thought [the series against] England was intense, but the way Australia gave us a fight it was amazing on their part, but our guys kept bouncing back,” he said. “We showed true character and maturity. The guys handled themselves well.”
The 28-year-old also reveled that an improve fitness regimen helped India tackle a marathon home season, which saw them play 13 Tests since Septemeber. “The changes we made in our fitness regimen have paid off. Guys have been able to sustain the performance throughout the season.”
‘Still need time to be fully fit’
The focus has now shifted to the Indian Premier League, which starts in less than 10 days time. Kohli, who also captains the franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore, spoke about the shoulder injury he suffered in Ranchi. “It’s still a few weeks to go till I can be 100% on the field. You have to take it in your stride and move forward,” he said.
The Delhi dasher once again praised several players fo rpicking their game up at various intervals. “In the past, we have had sessions where we have given away the game easily. Not this season. It has been a team season. Not one or two individuals who have stood out.” There were also words of praise for stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane, who had a victorious first outing in the first game, “Ajinkya led the team really well. It was very pleasing to see that from the outside,” he said.