We're looking forward to playing more difficult Test cricket: Kohli

‘Excitement to get back on to the field.’ ‘Looking forward to travel and play abroad.’ ‘Want to play difficult cricket.’

Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri made all the right noises ahead of India’s challenging tour to Ireland and the United Kingdom. India will play a two-match T20I series in Ireland, followed by three T20Is, three ODIs and five Tests against England.

Speaking in New Delhi on Friday (June 22) ahead of the team’s departure to Ireland, the India coach and captain effused confidence in their team’s ability to do well in England.

Kohli felt that all the talk about India’s terrible last tour to England has been over the top, and that people needed to move on from there.

“I think a lot of people have held on to the last tour for too long,” Kohli said. “We’ve had the Champions Trophy as well which has totally been forgotten – I don’t think that was in Bangladesh. I was asked this question when we reached England (what are you looking forward to?), and I said taking a walk and having coffee on the street. My thinking is very different when I go on a tour, I literally am looking forward to enjoying the country, am not even thinking of the cricket. I know if I’m in a good zone, I will play well. If I think like how people are thinking on the outside, then things don’t happen.

“This is just another series for me individually, but for us as a team, this is a very exciting time. After what happened in South Africa, we’re actually looking forward to playing more difficult Test cricket. That I feel is the best thing that can happen. You don’t want to go to England saying, ‘Oh the Test series isin one month’. We want it to actually be sooner. That’s the kind of excitement we take along with us. It’s the same case with the ODIs and the T20s. It’s just a great phase for Indian cricket.”

Kohli finds himself back in the Indian team having missed out on the Test against Afghanistan due to a neck injury. Speaking about his fitness, Kohli said he’s back to full fitness now, and added that the break has done him much good.

“I’m 100% ready to go. The neck is fine now. I have had six to seven sessions in Mumbai. I have had good practice. I am absolutely ready to go. Went through a fitness test as well so body is feeling fine. I’m actually excited to get back on the field which is a very rare thing when you play so much cricket but I think these sort of breaks really help and mentally they make you fresh and excited to go back on the pitch again,” Kohli said.

“In hindsight, I feel what has happened is the best for me. I wanted (to experience) the more difficult phase of those conditions. I wanted the wet and damp conditions where Puji [Cheteshwar Pujara], Ishant [Sharma] and Varun [Aaron] played in. But in hindsight if I was 90% with my body and used to the conditions rather than 110% and fresh, I’d much rather be where I am today.”

“You have a certain ability, but if you’re fit then that same ability gets enhanced,” Shastri added, speaking about the importance of the Yo-Yo test. “And that’s why we emphasise on this yo-yo thing. And whoever thinks it’s a one-off, he’s sadly mistaken. He can take a walk. The philosophy is simple. You pass, you play. You fail, you sit. The captain leads from the front, the selectors are on the same page, the entire team management is on the same page and the boys have responded extremely well.”

Unlike in 2014, when India first played the Tests, which they lost 1-3, and then proceeded to play the ODIs and the T20I, India will now first play as many as seven internationals, spanning more than a month, before taking England on in the five-match Test series. It was ideal preparation, as Kohli put it.

“Preparation, it’s ideal. You get to play ODIs, then T20s and by the time the Test starts, it’s already a month. There’s a lot of time to acclimatise. The plan is the same as that was in South Africa, against Sri Lanka, and what was there before. Strategy doesn’t change. Mindset doesn’t change if we don’t perform in one series or another. Our focus is on cricket. We don’t have to do anything different. We have to play with a match-winning mindset. It’s not about individual players, it’s about the team.”

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