“It’s about being ruthless for us, and winning every game. That’s the kind of passion all these guys have, it’s a matter of bringing it out,” said Virat Kohli, ahead of India’s third One-Day International against Sri Lanka at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Uppal, to be played on Sunday (November 9).
That word – ruthless – made an appearance on more than one occasion while Kohli spoke. The series is on India’s side 2-0 with three games left to play. India have looked far stronger than Sri Lanka on all counts so far. And Sri Lanka, despite the presence of Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews and other stalwarts, haven’t really come to the party yet.
What’s pushing the Indian team to keep their game up at the moment then?
“We want to be ruthless and win by big margins,” stressed Kohli. “We have to keep the team closest to the combination we want to take into the World Cup, and let those guys play their roles better instead of trying to experiment too much at this point of time. It’s about finding the perfect combination that we feel 100% sure of going into the World Cup – that these are the 11 players who are going to do the job for us. It’s about cementing that 100% as of now, rather than experimenting too much with the team.
“It’s more important, when you’re winning, to underline the things that you can improve on, and the things that didn’t go right in that particular game. What we are trying to achieve is being ruthless, rather than letting situations … in the past it’s happened that we have got eight wickets and then let the last two players just get away with it. Collectively, as a team, we have decided to keep the foot on the pedal and not let the opposition get away with anything.
“If you want to be ruthless and you want to have big wins, it’s very important to address what happened in a convincing win so you can increase the margin of victory the next time around and improve those small areas as well. That’s the kind of hunger and vision that we are trying to bring into the team now going into the World Cup. We want to be ruthless; not let any situation pass by and not be casual in any situation.”
That’s tough talk, very different from what MS Dhoni, the regular captain of the Indian team who has taken a break for the first three games of this series, would ordinarily dish out. No, Kohli didn’t put on a snarl on while saying ‘ruthless’ all those times, but he did have a steely sort of expression. Steely. And calm. Matter of fact. Suggesting that the team management has made the decision and he has taken it upon himself to ensure that it’s done as well as possible while he is in charge.
“We treat every game like a knockout game, looking to win every game,” he said when asked about the series scoreline. “We are making plans for every game and trying to execute those plans. That’s the kind of mindset we want to build going into a tournament like the World Cup, where, come the knockout stage, you play one knockout game and you’re out.
“It’s all about staying closer as a group, and working on our flaws and our strengths, rather than thinking about the other team. If we are so confident in our ability, we should be able to, and we should be good enough to, handle all situations and all kind of bowling attacks in the world. We are taking this series, and the tri-series (in Australia before the World Cup), as a chance to really test ourselves and create targets for ourselves.”
In a way, the series against Sri Lanka, arranged in a rush once West Indies returned home without completing their fixtures, was a blessing for the Indians. Additional games, that too in the comfort of home, before the triangular series in the alien and hostile conditions of Australia just prior to the World Cup – if nothing else, it’s a chance to brush things up a little more. And, going by what Kohli said, add a little ruthless edge.