When Virat Kohli walks into the Green Park Stadium, Kanpur, on Thursday morning, for the toss with his New Zealand counterpart Kane Williamson, it will be a moment that could go down in the annals in the history. The 32nd Test captain of India, Kohli will lead a young and evolving Test team in what will be the 500th Test match played by India. These 500 Test matches have been played over a span of 80 years- the first time being the maiden Test match at Lords against England, skippered by Col. C.K. Nayudu. Nayudu’s Indian team that lost the match by 158 runs was a squad of novices with little foreign exposure, but tons of runs and experience in domestic cricket.
Kohli’s Team India is in a rebuilding phase. Young, with tons of foreign exposure, but still looking to assert their Test credentials. Pacer Ishant Sharma is the most experienced Test match player with 72 Tests under his belt. Following Sharma, Kohli is second most experienced with 45 Test; opener Murli Vijay played 39 and spinner Ravichandran Ashwin played 36 Tests. The rest have less than 20 Test matches under their belt. The Indian skipper is excited with his chance to play 17 matches in total this season, which according to him, gives the team the platform to assert its Test credentials.
“This season is a phase which will lay the foundation as to where the Test team will go or where the Test cricket will go as far as India is concerned. We have started off pretty well, full of exciting players. The challenge in last one year or so has been to remain composed and get the victories which we require, and we have been able to do that. The important thing is to continue the same,” said Kohli after Team India’s training session at the Green Park.
On playing the long format at a stretch, Kohli, exhibiting his positive approach, said, “That’s one thing we are happy about. We can plan our Test cricket, back ourselves and get those victories whenever the chance comes. These are very exciting times ahead.”
The 27 year old Indian skipper is very optimistic about India’s chance to be the best Test side and believes the team has the wares to deliver and rule. “We certainly believe that we have what it takes to be the best in the world..Lots of young players lack belief. There could be a lot of insecurities, like whether I would be able to play in the next game or whether my position was settled or not. So, it’s all about getting rid of all those feelings. When you step in to the field, you need to tell yourself that I own this position for next 10 years. That’s how you can be confident and stress-free. That’s how you can express yourself and that’s what this team has been able to do.”
With seamer Mohammed Shami’s return to Test side and the presence of off spinner Ashwin and leg spinner Mishra, Kohli’s bowling resources get back into healthy zone. Young top order batsman KL Rahul’s recent exploits in the Carribean has added a different dimension to the top order. With Anil Kumble as coach, the prospects for India in Test cricket indeed look exciting as promised by Kohli.
The Indian skipper has laid out his demand draft from his players. He wants ,bold, fearless and assured cricket from them. “You want to play bold cricket, take risks. If you are fearless, the results will fall your way because you are willing to take that extra risk in the course of the game."
Be boring, Kohli advises his teammates. That is a way to get to the top. “I certainly feel that this team has what it takes to be the best in the world. What it requires is sustained concentration, attention to details, practicing the same way everyday, doing boring things. Because, at this level, you need to be boring if you want to be successful; in your training and in your practice. So, whoever can do that for a sustained period of time will obviously be a very good side.”
For those worried about Test cricket and its future in India, Kohli gives the assurance that the baton is in the right, secure hands.