Virat Kohli has revealed that Hardik Pandya’s ability to bowl as the fifth bowler led him to take the risk of playing five seamers, which eventually brought forth India’s win at Wanderers. The skipper also reiterated that the team’s self-belief irrespective of what others thought, was the key.
India had been at the receiving end of criticism throughout most of the series- firstly, for the terrible batting display in the first two Tests and, secondly, for their team selection. Hence, the side was looking set to receive further condemnation when they announced to go with five batsmen and five seamers after witnessing batting failures in the first two tests. Their decision to bat first after winning the toss on a green Wanderers pitch further made things shocking for the viewers.
However, after India put up a fighting lead of 187 in the first innings, thanks to brilliant fifties by Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, their fierce bowling attack managed to dismiss South Africa for 194 runs. To everyone’s surprise, India managed to score 247 runs in the second innings before they wrapped up South Africa for 177 snatching a 63-run win.
"The decision to play all five seamers was purely because of the fact that someone like Hardik (Pandya) can do the job of the fifth bowler here and to play four seamers here is something that really worked in our favour. It's just that we batted better than them in this game and bowled better. That's why we won," Kohli explained.
After losing the first two Test matches and conceding the series, critics had written off India from preventing the whitewash. However, Kohli stated that the narrow defeats on the previous two occasions had kept his side motivated, who knew that a win was just around the corner.
"We don't think like people on the outside. When things don't go well, we as a team don't say 'oh we should have done this' or 'we should have done that'. That's the easiest thing to do. I can say or write anything about anyone," Kohli said.
"But when you're in there, facing their bowling attack on that sort of a wicket, and then when you decide to bat first, you need to be sure. You need to have belief in yourself,” added Kohli.
The outcome was almost decided when India returned to the dugout after posting a target of 248 runs. With the pitch hardly friendly for the batsmen, India’s proven pace attack was expected to break through South African batting order with ease.
However, the early wicket of Aiden Markram on the third day was followed by a long and frustrating 119-run partnership by Hashim Amla and Dean Elgar, who stayed on for 51 overs, leading many to believe that the game would end in a loss. But, Kohli stated that he always believed that there was a chance.
“We got stuck into them in the second innings at Cape Town as well. Then they had a collapse in Centurion in the first innings. So we knew that if we get a couple of wickets the same thing could be repeated. Because as a batsman you are certainly reminded of the collapses that you have had and you don't want to repeat that. We knew that the kind of bowling attack we had and the way we are bowling right now, even if get a couple of wickets it will only be a matter of time," Kohli said.