India captain Virat Kohli has said that Test cricket will stay relevant for a long time if India prioritise it. Speaking to Star Sports about his long-term plans as captain, Kohli said his vision for India was domination in Test cricket, and, given the size of their fan base across the globe, that would give Test cricket the status it deserves.
“I wouldn’t say goal but I would rather speak of a vision, which is for India to be a superpower in Test cricket or a very, very strong side in Test cricket in the years to come. I think if Indian cricket respects Test cricket, and Indian players respect Test cricket, then Test cricket will stay at the top because of the fan base that we have all over the world,” Kohli said. “If we focus too much on shorter formats – yes, they’re important – but if we solely focus and look at them as an escape or an excuse to not be in the kind of situations that Test cricket presents to you, then I think there’ll start being a mental problem with the cricketers coming up.
“As long as you’re willing to wake up every morning for five days and do the hard yards and go do the dirty work – if you’re willing to bat for two hours and not score a run for the team – I think that is what people should prepare [for]. And that will require the team to lay out a certain things that needs to be done and for the next lot to keep following. So the next lot that comes in, they have to maintain that vision and then the people coming in will follow. I hope that continues and I will try my level best for as long as I can to keep that culture going.”
Kohli became the first Indian captain to win a series in Australia earlier this month, a feat that followed spirited performances in South Africa and England that nonetheless ended in series losses. Kohli said that as a captain he has continued to evolve ever since he was handed the leadership duties for the first time during India’s 2014-15 tour of Australia. He said captaincy was both challenging and stressful, despite his phenomenal success as a batsman. He acknowledged the advice given to him by India head coach Ravi Shastri last year, during a conversation which he said changed his mindset about leading in Tests.
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“Ever since 2014, I think he’s [Shastri] one person who’s given me honest feedback whenever things required to be altered. I remember we sat down. I’d scored a Test century and a fifty in the same game in England, so he called me and he said, as far as batting is concerned, I’m not going to discuss anything with you now because you’ve done some something which I am proud of and everyone is proud of. But as a captain, we need to start thinking how to get the best out of this team and how to tactically be spot on. And that really hit me because I felt like, you know, there’s so much more to captaincy than you sometimes think.
“Just to be able to get feedback from a person who makes you feel like the small contributions are much bigger in the in the scheme of things than you going out there and scoring runs yourself [was useful]. It’s [about] how you speak to the players, how you motivate the team. How you take decisions in crunch situations, how you’re aware where the game is heading.”
The Kohli-Shastri relationship has been much scrutinised, particularly because of the circumstances that led to former coach Anil Kumble’s resignation in 2017. Kumble’s exit had followed months of public discussion around his leadership style, which was said to be “intimidating” to the players. Shastri’s return as coach was thus viewed by many as the appointment of a yes-man, a claim Kohli had denied as recently as before the Australia tour. Kohli reiterated his admiration for Shastri, praising, in particular, Shastri’s openness, and stated that he was “the most amazing support” this team could have.
“He one person, because he’s done so much commentary, and he’s seen the game so much and has played so much himself – just watching the game – he knows where the game is heading,” Kohli said. “So just get getting feedback from him constantly has been the biggest help for me, in terms of moulding my own personality into captaincy. He’s someone who has never tried to change me just to be able to fit into the captaincy mode. And I think that was the most important thing and he’s been the most amazing support for the team and someone who’s backed the team through and through.
“I think he’s struck the perfect balance for this team. And he’s the one person who was there when we were No. 7 [in the rankings] in 2014. He was there and you know the transition started under him. And we started feeding off that mindset and started bringing that in, which I could eventually go out there and boost more [on the field]. But I think it was his vision for us to be fearless and play a certain kind of cricket, which I think he deserves a lot of credit for.”