India captain Virat Kohli was in a combative mood during his mandatory press conference after the second Test against South Africa, which the hosts won by 135 runs.
Test debutant Lungi Ngidi sensationally bowled South Africa to a series-clinching win on Wednesday, taking six for 39 as India conceded the three-match series 0-2.
Kohli top-scored for India in the first innings with 153 out of the team’s total of 307 but could only score five in the second when the visitors were chasing 287 to win. India were bowled out for 151 in the second innings, with Rohit Sharma scoring 47.
Kohli was asked some tough questions in the press conference regarding team selection and India’s poor overseas record. Let’s just say he did not like some of them.
How much worse is it to lose because of lack of application? Three run-outs, soft shots…
At the end of the day, one team has to lose. As a team you always try to win. You can accept defeat but not the way we played. The way we let the advantage slip out of our hand, that is not acceptable from a team’s point of view. So many soft dismissals in one match hurt a lot.
Because you work so hard, you prepare for a match, you get into good situations, shift the game towards you, and then the momentum shifts because of these mistakes. That feels very bad as a team.
Individuals have to sit and reflect on these things themselves. They do it. I am not saying they don’t reflect on it, but we have repeated these mistakes in both matches. There have been many soft dismissals, which as a team are not acceptable.
Did it seem to you that you were the only one with intent?
We have not come here to play the way we have done. That is something that we need to definitely speak about. We need to be hard on ourselves. We need to ask ourselves if we are giving 120% for the team every time we bowl a ball or play a ball or field a ball. That is something individuals need to reflect on themselves, but as a team we are definitely going to lay out these things in the open.
We will ask the guys to be honest about what they were feeling at particular stages in the game. Unless you speak about it and lay it out in front of everyone, there is very little chance of improving. The mistakes that we made have been really about not putting attention to detail at important stages of the game. It is something we definitely need to take into account and sit down and discuss as a team.
Some batsmen in this team have not performed outside Asia. Is there a temptation to sit down with the A-team coach to look at options outside this group?
We will have to sit down and discuss those things. Look, it doesn’t feel nice that you come out and you feel good as a team and then you are not able to execute what you want to. It almost has to be a madness to be able to win away from home. And you have to live that every minute, every day of being on tour.
As I said it is a very individual thing but we need to discuss this as a team for sure. I can’t speak on behalf of selectors as to what they are thinking. Obviously the selectors will come into the conversation as well when we are looking at planning for future tours also because we have a lot of cricket away from home. This was not the only tour. We have to identify all the areas that need improvement. And accordingly act on those. Obviously the selectors are going to be a big part of that conversation.
You arrived with the right resources to compete in South Africa. Having had too many players – did it affect selecting the XI?
Sorry I didn’t understand you.
You came with the right resources: Three openers, two wicketkeepers, middle-order options. When it came to picking a XI, did it come to difference of thoughts? Maybe Rahane could have played or Rohit could have played...
Look when something doesn’t work, obviously it’s going to be spoken against. We are pretty used to that. We as a team don’t think of what the opinion going around is, and I’ve clarified that before also. There are many people that are involved in making a decision for the playing XI. A lot was spoken about Bhuvi as well but Shami performed in this game, so now no one is talking about that.
So you know it’s all about whoever goes out on the field and performs. We obviously look at the conditions that we are playing in and we decide as a management group and myself sitting together that what is the best XI that we can take on the field. And then we don’t sit back and think, ‘Oh, we could have done that or we should have done that.’ You make one decision and you back it. It’s always that scenario.
Last couple of years playing in subcontinent conditions, you’ve got a formula to excel on pitches like these. Fast bowlers from both teams have said this is more like a subcontinent pitch. How much does this loss hurt that despite having that formula you could perhaps not get the best XI out and win this match?
What’s the best XI?
The one that would have been able to win this match. Was it your best XI?
But if we had won this, was this the best XI?
Again...It’s a pitch that was much more subcontinental...
I’m saying that we don’t decide XI according to the results.
My question was about the pitch...
But you’re saying... you’re telling me we could have played the best XI. So you tell me the best XI and we’ll play that. I’m saying the loss obviously hurts. But you make one decision and you back it. We certainly don’t sit here and say, ‘Oh, if you fail in one game you are not good enough to be at this level, or once the team loses...’
Didn’t we lose in India? We had the best XI there. Whoever plays should be good enough to go out there and do the job for the team. That’s why we’ve got such a big squad. Because we believe in their abilities and they are good enough to be at this level but you need to do that collectively as a team.
You can’t pinpoint and say this is the best XI. We played with teams before that have looked really strong and have lost as well. So, I certainly don’t bend towards that opinion at all.
A word on the partnerships... or perhaps the lack of them which have contributed to the loss...
Yeah, I would point out the lack of it. I wouldn’t point out the partnerships... because partnerships of 60s and 70s are not good enough to win Test matches. We’ve seen that in the past as well and we’ve identified that and, you know, you need guys to put their heads down when the partnerships has gone to 60 and 70 and try to make it into 100 or 150 to give the team the best chance of winning a Test match or being in a solid position.
Similarly, when you are batting as well, you want to make big hundreds and not get out so that the team can benefit from that. So, it’s the same mindset that you take into partnerships as well. When we did well in Australia, we got 450 runs every first innings but our partnerships were massive. That is something we haven’t repeated here.
And as I said in the presentation as well, South Africa did that better than us. They did not have many partnerships, but whatever they had, one big partnership was always there and that was the key to them consolidating those situations and they deserved to win the series.
In hindsight, do you think you should have come early here to prepare for the series?
See, I don’t believe in that. We had a result in three days in Cape Town and we had no complaints and we really enjoyed the pitch we played on because we had an equal chance of winning the game there. We were not good enough to do that, that’s a different thing but it wasn’t like we were set a total, the team had declared and we were outplayed. We had opportunities in both the games, that’s probably the smallest positive that we can think of at this moment.
Look, I am not going to sit here and try to comfort anyone, we need to be hard on ourselves if we need to do special things. We need to sit down and ask ourselves whether we are giving enough every time that we go out on the field. We should be reflecting on all our decision-making and all the actions that we have made in this game and the previous game and act upon them.
A lot of overseas careers are on the line when you go to the Wanderers because they’ve got good records in India but not around the world?
Look, everyone wants to perform everywhere. I don’t know whether people think about those things too early or... because when we came here last time we batted well. This time around we haven’t batted well as a unit. We bowled well, we didn’t bowl as well last time but this time we have bowled better.
But what’s annoying is that it hasn’t come together at one time which obviously South Africa has done and that’s how you win Test matches. That’s the most hurtful thing that both skills are not coming together at the right time, including fielding. They were far superior than us in the field. All three things have come together well in tough situations to be able to win Test matches and series which we have failed.
Looking at the pitch here, there was turn and it was on the slower side. Would you look back at this as an opportunity lost because the conditions here were similar to what we get at home? We (India) should have ideally beaten South Africa here.
Well, we were quite disappointed in Cape Town as well, there was an opportunity to win also. Look, Test cricket, it doesn’t matter where you are playing. Teams have beaten us also at home at times but these conditions are something that we are used to playing at and we should have certainly done better than what have.
Having said that it’s about which team plays collectively better and as I mentioned quite a few times already that South Africa collectively were a much better team than us regardless of pitches we played on. Their bowlers put relentless pressure on us as a batting unit, and their batsmen as well, after losing a few wickets, they would string in a partnership. They showed more character than us.
Don’t you feel there is over-dependence on you in this line-up?
I don’t think so. There are 11 guys in the field, I try to do my best and so does everyone else. I certainly don’t think like that. No one in the change room thinks like that. Sometimes another batsman plays through the innings and you feel like, you are too dependent on him. Anyone can have a day where they can bat through the innings but that doesn’t mean that they are too dependent on that particular player.
Everyone has contributed for the team at different times – you can’t win games of cricket because of one or two people. Everyone has done well in the past and that’s why we have done well. It just hasn’t been able to come well together here. That’s the reason why we haven’t able to win these games.
You were talking about it not coming together well – has that maybe been because of the chopping and changing of selection? In over 30 Tests that you have been captain, you have changed your starting line-up in each and every Test you have played. I think you would know that to win Test matches you need a lot of consistency, and you have been lacking that part. What would you put that down to, and how would you say that you will continue changing your team and still expect different results?
How many Test matches have we won out of 34?
In how many have you changed the XI?
How many have we won?
In how many have you changed the XI?
How many have we won? 21 wins. Two losses. How many draws?
How many in India?
Does it matter? Wherever we play, we try to do our best.
Media manager: Next question.
I’m here to answer your questions, not to fight with you.
In the 1990s, the situation was that in difficult situations only Sachin Tendulkar made India win matches. Is it the same now, that only Virat Kohli makes the team win in difficult situations? And in very difficult situations no one else can stand for the team.
Like I said before, we don’t believe in this at all. We look to play as a team, and our effort is that everyone contributes in the match. But everytime that’s not possible. But if it repeats too often, then we’ll have to identify that and improve on that. Everyone doesn’t get to play for the country. We are getting that opportunity and it should be an honour and privilege for us. And we have to put in our maximum effort and execute our plans properly on the field. Everyone’s mindset is that we should all contribute equally for the team.
There’s a lot of talk of India doing well in India but not overseas. Do you still believe you’re the best side in the world?
Look, we have to believe that we are the best side. Even when we came here, if you don’t have the belief that you can win the series here, there is no point coming here. We have not come here just to participate. And answering your question, sir, how many times did South Africa come into the game in India? Come close to winning games in India? Can you count?
That’s because the pitches...
But we are not complaining about Cape Town either. The game was finished in three days, one was a washout. So look, we are not complaining about pitches, we are not complaining about conditions. We have come here to play. As I said, we have had equal opportunities to win in both games, and that’s the positive we can take out of it, but I’m not sitting here comforting my guys. So I don’t know what you are listening to, but I’m asking everyone to be hard on themselves.