India captain Virat Kohli on Thursday hinted at fielding an unchanged XI for the fourth Test against England at Southampton after confirming that off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was fit to play.
India have chopped and changed their teams for the last 45 Tests, with Kohli fielding 38 combinations in as many matches. “Everyone is fit to start. Ashwin has recovered nicely. He had a good practice session yesterday [on Wednesday]. He is good to go,” Kohli told reporters.
“It has not always been the case of (making) changes. There have been injuries as well, which have not been taking into consideration. It has been a mix of both. Seeing the way things are right now we don’t feel we need to change anything.”
Trailing 0-2 in the series, India managed to make a comeback in the five-Test series with a facile 203-run win in the third Test at Nottingham.
Kohli urged his side to carry the winning momentum into the fourth Test. “We probably didn’t have the experience to capitalize on the lead (1-0 after win at Lord’s) is how I see things four years down the line,” he said, reflecting on India’s tour of England in 2014.
“Right now we understand that we are in a very exciting position to have gained momentum at the right time in the series. To have played like that when two-nil down; when everyone thought that it is going to be a clean sweep or we are going to be rolled over.”
The fourth Test of the series will mark only the third five-day match to be held at the Ageas Bowl. England had beaten India convincingly in 2014 by 266 runs. Kohli asked his team to be capitalise on their winning momentum. “As cricketers, we understand when a Test match goes away from you and we spoke about recognizing that, making sure that we are relentless and ruthless in terms of capitalizing on those important moments, which we did in Nottingham,” he said.
“But also to understand that we will have to do that two more times for us to achieve the goal that we want to (of winning the series). And not be satisfied at all with one victory only because if Nottingham was hard work, this is going to be even harder. England would want to come back strongly. We understand that and we will have to be even better with what we did in Nottingham to be able to get results our way,” he added.
A green top has been prepared for this fourth Test, which should work to the strengths of the Indian pacers. However, Kohli ruled out the possibility of an all-pace attack. “If there is a pitch is like Johannesburg then you have no doubt whatsoever in playing an all-out pace attack. But I don’t think this pitch is anywhere close to Johannesburg. So I doubt an all-out pace attack is the right option,” he said.
“...the last time we played here the spinners came into play in the second innings. There were big footmarks. The surface is pretty hard. Once it wears out, spinners can get a lot [of turn] in the second innings. That is how I see the wicket as of now.”
Talking about Indian pacers, Kohli said, “You feel very confident when you see bowlers doing very well. We’ve been talking about it for a while now that even if you score 800 or 1000 runs in Test matches, victory won’t come if you don’t take wickets.”
“If you take 20 wickets, you will get a win or at least a draw. Instead of focussing on the batsmen, we’ve been focussing on the bowlers on how to take 20 wickets. That’s why we’ve playing with five bowlers for a long time now. If we don’t play five bowlers, our chances of taking 20 wickets narrow.”
“We don’t think we are at a disadvantage when it comes to pace bowling. We think we are equal to any team in the world and if we play well, we can win anywhere.”
When asked if the batsmen, including him, will have to change their techniques to adapt to this green top wicket, Kohli said, “I don’t think there’s any need to change the way I’ve played so far in this series, or other batsmen the way they played in the last game. If the wicket is behaving totally different, you have to be flexible adjusting there and not having pre-set notions about going out wanting to play a certain way.”
“Apart from the pitch, conditions are going to be a massive factor as well because it’s cold for the last couple of days and it’s going to remain like that from what I understand. We will have to assess the situation every hour I guess because it can change very rapidly,” Kohli signed off.