As India get set to depart for South Africa, the team’s Test captain Virat Kohli addressed the media in a virtual press conference on Wednesday. With so many speculations around his removal from ODI captaincy to the buzz around the upcoming overseas tour, it was always going to be an intriguing conversation between Kohli and the media. As it turns out, the 33-year-old did make some shocking revelations and was absolutely candid and honest with his answers.
Here is the entire conversation between Virat Kohli and Media:
Media: Considering there are no warm-ups before the series, what are the areas you are looking to address at training in the lead up to the 1st Test?
Kohli: Things like match simulation really helps in conditions which are probably, in my opinion, for batting are most challenging because of the pace and bounce on offer. And the conditions can be quite tricky with a swing as well. I think as much simulation as we can have, understanding which areas we are hitting the ball, getting into good shape with the bowlers as well with the slips set in place, what areas they want to bowl and cut down all those easy singles so all those kind of things really help you get into a good space when you don’t have warm-up games.
Media: You had earlier spoken about how you wanted to lead the ODI team in the 2023 World Cup so whatever events that have transpired over the course of last week, can you give us a clear picture of the communication between the board or the chairman of selectors. Also, will you be available for the ODI series against South Africa?
Kohli: I was and I am available for selection all this time. You should not be asking this question to me honestly, this question should be asked to people who are writing about these things and their sources. Because as far as I am concerned, I was always available. I have not had any communication with the BCCI to say that I want to rest. So, there were a few things that came out in the past as well that I was attending some events which was absolutely not true either. All these people who are writing these things and their sources are absolutely not credible. So as I said, I am available for selection for ODIs in South Africa and I was always keen to play.
Answering your first question, whatever was said about the communication that happened during the decision that was made was inaccurate. I was contacted 1.5 hours before the selection meeting on the 8th of December for the Test series. There was no prior communication with me at all since I announced the T20 captaincy decision until the 8th of December where as I said I got a call 1.5 hours before the selection meeting. The chief selector discussed with me the Test team to which we both agreed and before ending the call, I was told that the 5 selectors have decided that I will not be the ODI captain to which I replied “okay fine”. And in the selection call afterwards, we chatted about it briefly and that’s what happened. There was no communication prior to that at all.
Media: How much will you miss opener Rohit Sharma’s services in the South Africa Test series?
Kohli: Well, we will miss his (Rohit Sharma) abilities a lot. He has proven in England already that he has really worked his Test game out and the opening partnership was very important for us to play in that series that we did. Obviously, with his experience and his skill, we will miss his qualities but having said that, I think it’s an opportunity for someone like Mayank and KL to step up and solidify that start for us that we got in the last series and make sure that the good work is carried on in this series as well.
Media: Over the last couple of years, India have preferred to play 5 bowlers and Jadeja has been a crucial part of it. How do you look at his absence and that playing a role in the combinations that you wanted to play?
Kohli: Jadeja has obviously been a very very important player for us. He contributes in all three departments of the game which is invaluable, especially in overseas conditions and yeah, he will obviously be missed. But having said, we do have quality in the side to be able to create the best combination possible and still be in situation to win Test matches. Because we have created that kind of bench strength and that kind of environment where people coming in and grab their opportunities with both hands. So as much as we miss him, I don’t think that it will be a deciding factor in this series going forward. He is injured and I wish him a speedy recovery and that he comes back soon.
Media: You have mentioned this before as well how mentally tough one has to be to thrive in sports. So when there is so much happening all around and some decisions are going against you as you mentioned as late as 1.5 hours before a selection call, maybe you are not quite in the right frame of mind as you would love to be ahead of such an important tour. How do you switch off and deal with it. What’s your coping mechanism?
Kohli: Nothing can derail me from being motivated to play for India. To be prepared for a tour like this, to perform to the best of my abilities, nothing has ever derails or nothing can derail me from that. Lot of things that happen on the outside are not ideal and not always how one expects them to be. But you have to understand that there is only so much that you can do as an individual and we have to keep the things in the right perspective and do the things you can do as an individual, in my control. So I am very focused and I am very mentally prepared, very excited to go to South Africa and do the best that I can for the team and make the team win.
Media: Now that you are a pure batter in the limited-overs format, first of all it is not easy to give up the captaincy, so how to do you take that one personally? And do you feel it will leave an impact on your batting as well positively?
Kohli: I can’t comment on whether it will leave a positive impact on my batting or not, I don’t think those things anyone can predict. I have taken a lot of pride in performing as captain as well for the team and I have done the best that I could. I think what I know is that my motivation level to perform for the team will not dip at all. And I will always be prepared and eager to perform in the same manner and about captaincy, I said I think one think I can say is that I’ve been honest to my responsibility and I have done it to the best of my my potential and I’ve been absolutely honest to that job. So that’s my assessment of my limited-overs captaincy. And the batting, when you know you have been doing well for a long time in the international level, you know how to perform so those things can never go away from you. And it’s just about understanding your roles and understanding the situation that you are going to play and making sure you are performing for the team.
Media: Aapne clear kiya ki 1.5 ghanta pehle aapko ye bataya gaya ki aap ab Hindustan ke one-day captain nahi rehne vale hai. Lekin aapne toh hamesha clear kiya tha ki aap 2023 tak Hinsustani ki captaincy one-day cricket mein karna chahte hai.
Kohli: Jab T20 captaincy ko chorne se pehle sabse pehle maine BCCI ko approach kiya ki mera ye point of view hai, ye decision hai aur inn reasons ki vajah se main ye karna chahta hu toh usko bohot ek ache tareeke se receive kiya gaya. Usme koi offence nahi thee, usme koi hesitation nahi thee. Mujhe ye nahi kaha gaya tha ki aap T20 captaincy na choriye balki use bohot ache se receive kiya gaya, ki bohot ek progressive step hai aur sahi direction mein hai. Toh uss time maine ye communicate kiya tha ki main ODI aur Test mein continue karna chahunga unless ki office bearers aur selectors ko lage ki mujhe ye responsibility nahi karni chahiye aur ye bhi maine call pe clarify kiya tha uss time pe. Mera communication clear tha BCCI ko uss time se ki main kya karna chahta tha. Aur jaisa maine kaha ki maine unhe option bhi diya tha ki agar unge lagta hai ki ye mujhe nahi karna chahiye (ODI and Test captaincy) toh vo decision unke hath mein hai.
Media: India played brilliantly to win the last Test in South Africa in Johannesburg in 2018 so how inspiring will those memories be going ahead in the series?
Kohli: We can take a lot of motivation from that, of course. We probably won on the toughest conditions in that tour so that should give us a lot of confidence that if we have the right mindset and we start off the series with lot of confidence and belief, we can definitely stand up to any challenge that comes our way and take a lot of heart from it. I think South Africa is one place where we have not won a series yet. So we are very motivated to do that and the mindset is always to go out there and win the series in any country that we play. We don’t anymore think of just winning a Test match here and there and we will do out absolute best that we can as a team to make sure that we keep contributing towards that cause and as you rightly said, we will take a lot of motivation and lot of belief from that victory.
Media: It was probably the tour of South Africa four years back which became the spring boat for India’s bid to dominate in all parts of world. So how excited are you at returning to a place with the opportunity of creating history and what is it that makes playing in South Africa more challenging than other places?
Kohli: South Africa was really the start for us, as a team, travelling and starting to believe that we can win the series overseas. We built it up nicely in England and Australia was the cumulation of all those efforts. South Africa presents a different kind of challenge. The wickets have a lot of pace and bounce and you need to be at your absolute best to be able to perform there and get difficult runs, something we have tried to do as a team but probably left ourselves a bit too much to do at certain times when sessions have gone very bad. This is something we have controlled nicely in recent past with more experience and guys understanding conditions. I think we are very well placed in terms of experience and belief that this time around, we can do something special and get the results that we want as a team and overcome the toughest conditions to go and win the series.
Media: You have always talked about building the team. How do you see your role in white-ball captaincy as the senior member of ODI squad?
Kohli: My responsibility is to push the team in right direction, something that I have always looked to do even before I became captain. That mindset has never changed and it will never change. Rohit is a very able captain and very tactically sound and we have seen that in the games that he has captained for India and in the IPL as well. Along with Rahul bhai who is a very very balanced coach and a great man-manager, both of them will have my absolute support and my contribution in whatever vision they set for the team and I will be there to support that 100% and continue to be a guy who can push the team in right direction going forward in ODIs and T20Is.
Media: Kya aapko vajah batayi gayi ki kyu aapko ODI captaincy se hataya jaa raha hai? Also, aapke aur Rohit ke rishto ko leke jo khabre aati hai, uspar aap kuch bolna chaahenge?
Kohli: Obviously ham ICC tournament nahi jeete toh reasons main samajh sakta hu. Decision sahi hai ya nahi uspe koi debate hi nahi thee matlab decision jo BCCI ne liya vo ek logical point of view ki vajah se liya jo bilkul understandable hain, main samajh sakta hu. Baaki jo events huye, jis tareeke se communicate kiya gaya vo maine aapko bata jji diya tha.
Maine pehle bhi ye kitne baar address kiya ki mere aur Rohit ke beech mein koi bhi problem nahi hai. Honestly, Main pichle 2 aur 2.5 saal se isko clarify kare jaa raha hu regularly. Main thak chuka hu iss cheez ko baar baar clarify karte karte kyuki ye baar baar sawaal mujhse poocha jaata hai. Aur main ek cheez aapko guarantee se bol sakta hu ki mera koi bhi action ya mera koi bhi communication kabhi bhi team ko neeche lagane ke liye nahi hoga jab tak main cricket khelunga. Ye hamesha se mera point of view raha hai Indian cricket ke liye aur ye meri commitment Indian cricket ki taraf hai hamesha.