Indian skipper Virat Kohli stated that he was pleased with the domineering fashion in which his side bounced back, and singled out Rohit Sharma’s 161 in the second Test as the turning point of the series. Kohli also claimed that, currently, India’s bench strength is the strongest it has ever been.
Coming on the high of a historic series win against Australia, India were expected to beat England rather easily, but their series got off to the worst start imaginable as the hosts were thrashed by a staggering 227-run margin in the first Test by the Three Lions. The two sides played on a rank-turner in the second Test, and India looked in deep trouble at one stage after losing their skipper Virat Kohli for a duck, but what then followed was a masterclass of the highest order from Rohit Sharma.
Having failed twice in the first Test, Rohit played arguably the "best knock of his Test career" as he bludgeoned a stunning 161 in what was called a "sandpit" in Chennai. The authority and audacity shown by Rohit helped India bat England out of the Test on the very first day, and it propelled the hosts to stage a fine comeback and level the series.
Eventually, India went on to win the series 3-1, and speaking post the series win, skipper Virat Kohli singled out Rohit’s knock in the second Test as the turning point in the series. Kohli claimed that Rohit’s surreal knock gave the side the belief they needed, and further described it as the best knock of the Mumbaikar’s red-ball career.
“Rohit's knock was the most defining moment in us coming back [in the series],” Kohli said in the presentation post the fourth Test
“Getting 150 on that pitch was as good as getting 250 and it got us into the contest. Throughout the series, he got important knocks and partnerships.”
The defeat in the first Test tested India’s character, but they bounced back emphatically by winning each of the last three Tests in under five days. Kohli expressed that he was elated by how his side bounced back, particularly after getting crushed in the opener in Chennai.
“I think the comeback [in the second Test] pleased me the most. The first game was an aberration the way we played as a team. The toss played a crucial role and I don't think the bowlers were in the game at all. The comeback and the way we batted in the second Test matches in Chennai.”
An overarching theme in India’s successful conquest of Australia two months ago was how the younger players stepped up to the plate, and it was the same case in this series too. Newbies Axar Patel and Washington Sundar, along with young Rishabh Pant, turned out to be the team’s key performers and it was their fearlessness and exuberance that helped India land knockout blows in the final three Tests. Kohli claimed that, as things stand, India’s bench strength is as strong as it has ever been, and added that the side’s long-term vision is to ensure that the younger players are ‘ready’ when the time is right for them to take the mantle over.
“Yes, Axar and Washington are ready and the idea was to have youngsters who came in and perform with fearlessness.Our bench strength is extremely strong and that's a good sign for Indian cricket. When the transition happens, the standards won't fall and Rishabh and Washy's partnership showed exactly that in a crucial juncture of the match.”
For months Kohli played down the World Test Championship Final as a ‘distraction’, but the Indian skipper, today, finally gave in. With India now having qualified for the WTC final, Kohli asserted that his boys are looking forward to the challenge.
“Now we can accept that the WTC final, which was a distraction in New Zealand in 2020, but now it's a reality.”