One of Virat Kohli’s buzzwords as captain of the Indian team has been ‘intent’. Kohli has always been a believer in being positive on the cricket field and never taking a step back, but on Friday (January 12), on the eve of the second Test against South Africa at SuperSport Park in Centurion, Kohli gave a layered definition of intent, demarcating it from the simplistic notion of having a go at every ball.
“Intent doesn’t really mean that you have to go out there and start playing shots from ball one,” said Kohli. “Intent is there in a leave. Intent is there in defending as well. Intent is about being vocal out there in calling. All those things count as intent. Just the way your body language, the way you are thinking about the game. It gets portrayed in your body language. People can tell if you are playing with intent or not. There will be tough moments but I think even the tough moments one needs to overcome through intent. Defending or leaving the ball, you need precise footwork to do that. And that only comes with a clear head and a positive intent in your head. That’s how I look at things. Even if I’m going to leave the ball, I need to do it with intent. My stride should be big enough to leave the ball, or defend it. So in my head I’m feeling positive about those things. Being positive doesn’t mean you are scoring every ball. But its understanding that you are in control of what you want to do. That’s how I break down intent.”
Kohli had asked for more intent from his batsmen after the defeat in the first Test at Newlands too. But he stressed on the need to ‘not panic’ about the batting after the loss, while deflecting questions on whether the team would go in with an additional batsman to counter the conditions.
“I don’t think we need to panic because of collapses,” he held. “People need to apply themselves much better. Whether we are playing five batsmen or six, you still need to apply yourself. It doesn’t mean that if you are playing six batters, you can afford to go out and play loose shots. You still need to have a solid technique and go out there and be ready to face bowling spells which are going to be difficult. We need to embrace that. So I don’t think there is any need to panic on that front. As far as the opening combination goes, we will decide at the end of practice today what is it that we are going to go within this game. We might do something different also but there is definitely no need to panic. As a batting line-up we have played well for a long time and played well away from home also in the last couple of years. So we just need to adapt and apply ourselves better when we go out to bat.”
Kohli did aver though, that the team needed more runs from the batsmen. “Especially when you are playing away from home, you need those 60-70-80 extra runs compared to back home because there your bowlers will be stronger,” he said. “But the way the bowlers showed their skillsets and their character in the first game, it motivated us as a batting group also to support them and play together as a unit and get some good results out there.”
The one thing Kohli would not be drawn into was any debate on the playing XI, insisting that it depended on the conditions, form and how the team’s last practice session on match eve went.
“Look all kind of situations are possible,” he said. “You finally come to a conclusion that feels balanced among all the situations you are thinking of. We have had a look at how games have panned out in the past here and how many overs have been bowled by fast bowlers and spinners. But it’s a good sign to see the pitch being lively purely because our batsmen are willing to take up that challenge again and the bowlers are also looking forward to doing the same job they did in Cape Town. We are still to talk about the different combinations that we can go in with. Again it’s about finding the right balance.
“For us as a team it’s all about finding the right balance. If players fit in in the kind of balance we want to go in with as a side then they will fit in,” he said, when responding to whether Ajinkya Rahane would find a place in the XI. “We certainly don’t go on opinions that are created outside, and talk of the town and all those sort of things. He (Rahane) is a quality player, he’s done well in South Africa, all conditions actually away from home. He’s probably been our most consistent and solid player away from home. I explained the reasons why Rohit (Sharma) started ahead of him. I’m not saying that Ajinkya cannot or will not start in this game. Possibilities are all open at the moment and we shall decide after practice.”
On how to go about winning the Test itself, Kohli said it came down to breaking it down in parts and staying in the moment.
“To win a Test anywhere in the world you need to stay in the present moment and try and win each moment that comes your way,” he explained. “We feel in Test cricket every ball is an event and we need to be at the top of the game to win that event and that’s why it tests you more than any other format. It is a test of character throughout for all five days. That’s one reason why we have won many games in the past is because we have applied ourselves really well. And the most important thing is that we don’t give up after being put under pressure. We are a team that looks to fight back and get right back into the game, we are not a team that gives opposition easy victories. We are going to test them. But what is very important for that is to maintain your composure and break down the number of sessions you have, and in between the sessions also break down time frames of how you are going to go about 15-20 minutes, half hour and what the team needs at every particular moment is a priority for us.”