Virat Kohli felt that the Indian batsmen ‘allowed’ the New Zealand bowlers to dictate terms, and insisted on the need for the group to be more positive and proactive at the crease heading into the future. Kohli opined that by being too defensive, batsmen carry the risk of killing momentum.
India’s woes against the moving ball continued in Southampton as mirroring the horror show in New Zealand last year, the Virat Kohli led-side got bowled out twice under 250 to finish runners up in the inaugural WTC cycle. But while the batsmen showed more resistance compared to last year, what stood out was the rate at which they batted, which was uncharacteristically slow.
Across both the innings, the Indian batsmen maintained a run rate of 2.34, and let the Kiwi bowlers dictate terms. After a quick start, the batters slowed down post the first session of Day 2 and this ultimately played into the hands of the Kiwis, who found their groove and kept bowling in desired areas to take control of the contest.
In the post-match press conference, Indian skipper Virat Kohli was critical of the ultra-conservative approach. Kohli admitted that the Indian batsmen will have to ‘work out better plans’ to construct innings, and claimed that letting bowlers dictate terms will only result in momentum getting killed.
"We definitely need to work out better plans on understanding how to score runs. We have to stay in sync with the momentum of the game and not let the game drift away too much. I don't think there is any technical difficulties as such,” Kohli said on Wednesday.
"It's more down to game-awareness and being more brave in putting bowlers under pressure and not allowing them to bowl in similar areas for longer periods of time unless it is absolutely overcast and ball swinging all over the place like it happened on day one.
"The endeavour would be to try and score runs and not worry about getting out in testing conditions. That's the way you can put opposition under pressure, otherwise you are standing there hoping that you don't get out and you are not being optimistic enough. You have to take calculated risks against a quality bowling attack like NZ."
India’s middle-order failed to come to the party in the final and many have seen this as a huge cause of concern as, minus Kohli, the heart of the middle-order consists of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, two senior cricketers who have been in the side for close to a decade. Both Pujara and Rahane average below thirty this year and the veterans failed to show resistance on the final day, perishing without contributing to the side.
Kohli did not take names, but asserted that ‘conversations will be had’ regarding potential personnel changes.
"We will continue to reassess and continue to have conversations around what are the things required to strengthen our side and not follow or fall prey to certain patterns," Kohli said at the post-match virtual press conference.
"We will not wait for a year or so and have to plan ahead. If you see our white-ball team now, we have great depth and guys are ready and confident. Same thing needs to be done with Test cricket.”
Much in contrast to Pujara and Rahane, though, one batsman who took the fight to New Zealand was Rishabh Pant. Walking in at 72/4, Pant counter-attacked the Kiwis and raced to 41 before perishing attempting a hoick over the on-side. The youngster has been criticised by many for the shot that brought about his demise, but the Indian skipper defended the wicket-keeper batsman.
Kohli asserted that Pant’s expressive nature is a part of his DNA, and stressed that the management do not want to youngster to lose his positivity at any stage.
"Look, Rishabh is just going to be a very expressive player whenever he gets an opportunity. Whenever there is a situation that needs to be understood, I think he assesses it really well. When things don't come off, you can say that it was an error of judgment and that's acceptable in sport, but we don't want him to lose his positivity or his optimism in changing the situation for the team, and that's where his USP lies," Kohli said.
"We will definitely continue to back him to play that way and find ways to put pressure on the opposition and find ways to score runs, which is his natural game. We're not too worried about that," said Kohli.
"I think it's up to him to understand whether it was an error of judgment and rectify it moving forward because he has a long career with the Indian team, and certainly someone who could be a match-maker for India on consistently many occasions in the future."