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Virat Kohli fired by 2015 turnaround, says Galle loss ‘had mentally dented us’

Virat Kohli said Sri Lanka will be a challenge in home conditions and India will be tested to prove their No. 1 status in Test cricket

cricket Updated: Jul 20, 2017 21:06 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Colombo
India vs Sri Lanka,Virat Kohli,Ravi Shastri
Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli (R) shakes hands with Sri Lankan one-day international (ODI) and Twenty20 captain Upul Tharanga during a press conference in Colombo on Thursday. India will play three Tests, five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 in Sri Lanka. The first Test starts on July 26 in Galle.(AFP)

Across the Palk Strait and miles away from a probing India media, Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri handled the Sri Lankan breathed a sigh of relief. No questions on Anil Kumble and none on Indian cricket’s mysterious ways, captain and coach enjoyed talking ‘cricket’ in Colombo on Thursday. (IND vs AUS WOMEN’S WORLD CUP LIVE)

Unlike the hurried less-than-10-minute press conference in Mumbai on Wednesday, this one, with a handful of Sri Lankan journalists, stretched to almost 30 minutes! Lanka’s Test captain Upul Tharanga spoke in Sinhalese alongside the country’s interim head coach Nic Pothas.

For Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri, Sri Lanka has always been a rewarding experience. So, both quickly went down memory lane.

“Our turnaround as a Test team started here (in 2015). It was iconic how we won the series after losing the first Test in Galle. It dented us mentally...that victory gave us the belief as a team. The transformation started then,” said Kohli.

“The first stamp in my passport is Sri Lanka. I came here as an under-19 cricketer, then I debuted as a TV commentator here in 1994 and now (here I am) as India’s head coach,” gushed a ‘matured’ Ravi Shastri.

India play a two-day practice game in Colombo starting Friday. The first of the three Tests starts in Galle on July 26. India play five ODIs and a T20. The tour ends on September 6.

‘TEST AS PROFESSIONALS’

“We haven’t played red ball cricket for three months. We will need four-five days to physically train ourselves and once the Tests starts, we have to align mentally. As professionals, we have to jump from format to format,” said Virat Kohli.

Sri Lanka may have struggled with their cricket in recent times, managing a dramatic record four-wicket win against unfancied Zimbabwe on Tuesday, but Kohli and Ravi Shastri said India “respected” Lanka’s formidable home record at home.

“Lanka at home is as good as any side in the world. There is no strong and no weak side and we respect any opposition,” said Kohli, adding that India “wanted challenges” and sought to “earn victories.”

Stand-in head coach Pothas said that Lanka were in “transition” and are in a similar position when India were rebuilding two years ago.

THE BIG ESCAPE VS ZIMBABWE

The sensational win against Zimbabwe will lift the Lankans for sure. Niroshan Dickwella and Asela Gunaratne hit crucial half centuries to guide Sri Lanka to their highest-ever run chase.

Chasing 388 for a win, the hosts, who had lost their first one-day international series against Zimbabwe prior to the one-off Test, had been reduced to 203 for five before Dickwella and Gunaratne combined in a stand of 121 to anchor the chase.

Kohli’s words “this game rewards the brave,” can only buoy the young and gaining-in-experience Lankan side.

The upcoming series will help resurrect Shikhar Dhawan’s Test career. The left-hander, quite prolific in the ICC Champions Trophy in June, was drafted in after Murali Vijay pulled out due to injury.

“Injuries are unfortunate and can’t be controlled,” said Kohli, who lauded Vijay for showing the “honesty” to declare his injury. “That’s the culture we have brought in this team. A culture of honestly has helped us grow,” said Kohli.

THE PUJARA FACTOR

India opened with Cheteshwar Pujara in the third Test in Colombo in 2015. Pujara, the only Indian to have had a stint in County cricket this season, scored an unbeaten 145 in the first innings as India scored a series-clinching 117-run win.

With Dhawan back and an injury-prone KL Rahul returning in the Test squad, India should be back with two regular openers. Both Dhawan and Rahul scored Test centuries in the 2015 series.

“We will not dwell on the past and won’t bask in glory. Taking one day at a time, we want to be one step ahead of the opposition,” said Kohli.

The journey begins next week.

First Published: Jul 20, 2017 21:02 IST