India prepared for ‘tough’ SA challenge
Overseas performances, it is said, often define characters of an international cricket. Hours before India departed for what could be the beginning of a long stretch of challenging overseas tours over the forthcoming 18 months, captain Virat Kohli preferred to play the forthcoming South Africa series down.
After having conquered 16 series in a row at home, and having tasted success in neighbouring Sri Lanka and the West Indies since the end of the World Cup in 2015, Kohli’s men will kick-off a tough patch away from home with the full series in South Africa starting January 5, which will feature three Tests, six ODIs and a T20I. Later in 2018, India will tour England for five Tests, five ODIs, and a T20I and at the turn of the year will start a four-Test series in Australia. It will be followed by a limited overs series in New Zealand before the 2019 World Cup will unfold in England.
Kohli, however, stressed that the team is not taking the undue pressure of faring well away from home. “For us playing cricket for the country is the most prestigious thing and it is an honor for us to do that. And we know what we want to do as a team. When you do things in conditions that are more challenging, that gives you more job satisfaction that’s for sure. You win any game of cricket anywhere you play well that gives you satisfaction as well,” Kohli said on Wednesday ahead of the team’s departure to the rainbow nation in the wee hours of Thursday.
“We have gotten rid of all the mental pressures of touring abroad and wanting to prove to people. We are not wanting to prove anything to anyone and our duty is to go out there, give our 100 percent effort for the country and get the result that we want to. Sometimes we will get it, sometimes we won’t. It happens at home, it will happen away as well. We need to be realistic about what we are doing and that the only way we will be staying in the present and execute the things we want to. We are going there to just play cricket and it does not matter whether we are in South Africa, Australia, England or India.”
Neither Kohli nor coach Ravi Shastri, however, shied away from the fact that the tour to SouthAfrica, where India has failed to clinch any series of formats so far, will be a tough challenge. “It’s going to be a challenge. We all know how tough a tour South Africa is but that’s the beauty of their profession. Wanting challenges and embracing and that’s what we are looking for and we toured Australia three years ago and we did a pretty good job,” Shastri said.
“We did well in England, Sri Lanka in 2015 had some great tracks, especially the last two Test matches where the ball seamed and swung, so the preparation has been good and these boys have been on the road together for the last four-five years, the same team pretty much. The nucleus has been the same, so that should help a long way.”
Barring a few newcomers, the nucleus of India’s 17-member squad would resemble with the one that toured South Africa in 2013-14. Kohli was quick to point out the bunch has come a long way in terms of experience. “Back in 2013, we were all really excited to firstly play in South Africa. As I just said, we were looking forward even then to go there and take up the challenge. The bowling attack back then compared to now what South Africa has was more experienced and we did really well against them,” he said.
“We almost won the Test in Joburg (Johannesburg), it was a see-saw game, we lost in Durban, but we played some really good Test cricket. The bowling and the batting have come a long way, all the guys are much more experienced now, but the hunger remains the same. We still want to go back and try to do what we couldn’t do last time around. That’s the kind of challenge you need to take up when you go to places like South Africa, England, and Australia because you go there once and you are not going to go there for a long time, which is the nature of how scheduling is done. So as Ravi Bhai rightly mentioned it is an opportunity for us and try to do the same things in the much more consistent way and we can get the results we are looking forward to.”