Virat Kohli has offered to help Sri Lanka come to terms with the transitional phase that they are currently undergoing after the ongoing limited overs series between the two sides comes to an end. The 28-year-old believes that the process takes mental preparation more than anything else.
The fact that Sri Lankan cricket is currently in the midst of a transitional phase following the retirement of some of their greats such as Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene in the recent past is plain to see as they have looked far from competitive across all departments of the game in the ongoing series against India. Moreover, Sri Lanka’s interim coach Nic Pothas himself admitted this when he said that Sri Lanka’s management would interact with their Indian counterparts with regards to how to overcome the ongoing phase.
Meanwhile, Kohli himself is open to the possibility albeit after the ongoing series between the two countries."We haven't had any discussions yet. Those things may happen after the competitive zone is over and done with the series. I think that will happen after September 6 if it has to happen from their end," Kohli said at the pre-match press conference.
The Indian team would be best suited to help Sri Lanka out with their transitional phase given that India themselves faced a similar situation not so long ago following the retirement of greats such as Sachin Tendulkar. More importantly, having been a part of that phase, he revealed what helped India through it, saying, "...But look it is difficult for any team going through transition. One thing that we decided to do as a team [is that we] took more responsibility and ownership of what we do on the field when playing for the country. We just needed to change our mindset.
"It didn't matter if we were playing against a side that has played 60 Tests each if we are mentally more prepared than them then we are in a better position to win. So we decided to put our heads in that zone where experience didn't matter much for us.
“It was the fight and competitiveness we were willing to show and the desire to fight for longer periods that helped us get through that phase quicker than what others might have faced," Kohli added.
While some of the Sri Lankan cricket fans have acknowledged that their team is undergoing a period of change, some of them appear to have had enough of the team’s dismal performances in the ongoing series as a group of them gathered around the team bus after the first ODI on Sunday and shouted slogans against the team.
However, Kohli had a word of support for the Sri Lankan side as he urged them to focus only on the things that were in their control. "I'm not someone who will sit here after not performing and request the fans to be patient with us or (tell them) 'please don't react in a bad way'. That's a very personal choice. If I, as a fan, am watching a game and I see a team not being able to do well I would feel compassion. I would not burn effigies or smash faces, put on mannequins and what not. I would show compassion because you can understand at a human level that everyone's trying hard out there and no one wants to go out there to lose or fail."
"I think people find the ease and convenience, and the pleasure in pulling other people down which I personally don't believe in. I'm sure it's tough for the players to see such things. But you can't really control what's happening from another person, you can only control what you can do on the park and the mindset that you can be in," he stated.
Finally, if there is one player who symbolizes Sri Lanka’s decline in the recent past it has to be Lasith Malinga as the bowling spearhead has lost his pace of late and has looked a pale shadow of his former self. But despite all this, Kohli refused to accept that this was the end of the road for Malinga.
"Obviously, age is always a factor in sport. I cannot speak for Lasith but everyone wants to keep up with their peak fitness and manage their bodies well through the course of their career. When you look at his bowling action and the kind of success he has had for such a long period of time [it] is actually remarkable. With the dynamics of his bowling, it's not very natural. What he has been able to achieve for Sri Lanka has been outstanding. That's why they have been such a dangerous side over the last few years in limited overs format," said Kohli.
He even went onto state that Malinga could re-find his former self, "Even when he played Test cricket, he made an impact. It's very easy to say that he is not bowling as well anymore but it could just be a phase. Once he starts hitting those yorkers again, those slower balls again, and picks up wickets on a regular basis then these talks can be otherwise also.
"I can't talk about his body, only he would know. But as long as we play him we obviously respect his skills and what he can bring to the table and how he can turn the game around. We always play him like that, we have always played him like that and we'll continue to play him like that till he plays for Sri Lanka," he concluded.