Captain backs positive approach after batters get caught in two minds on final day
Kohli’s India were bowled out for 217 and 170 in their two innings in Southampton, en route to an eight-wicket defeat against New Zealand in the inaugural World Test Championship final.
Though they began the final day with an overnight score of 64 for 2 and a lead of 32, India were bowled out before tea in the best weather conditions of the match, with New Zealand’s four main seamers sharing the wickets around before Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor sealed a 139-run chase with 7.1 overs remaining in the match.
Only Rishabh Pant, dropped on 5 in the morning session, found any meaningful resistance as he improvised his way to 41 from 88 balls before holing out to deep backward point, and during the post-match presentation Kohli told Michael Atherton that India were about “30-40 runs short” of a defendable target.
Expanding on that point afterwards, Kohli said that some of India’s batting might have been too circumspect in their attempts to combat a well-structured and versatile New Zealand bowling unit.
Pant’s innings attracted criticism in some quarters, particularly the shot that led to his wicket, but Kohli warned that it would be counter-productive to cramp his expansive style – one that has proved crucial in recent months, from their historic series win in Australia last winter to the more recent home victory over England.
“Rishabh is just going to be a very expressive player whenever he gets an opportunity,” Kohli said. “Whenever there is a situation that needs to be understood, I think he assesses it really well. When things don’t come off, you can say that it was an error of judgment and that’s acceptable in sport
“We don’t want him to lose his positivity or his optimism in changing the situation for the team, and that’s where his USP lies, and we will definitely continue to back him to play that way and find ways to put pressure on the opposition and find ways to score runs, which is his natural game.”
India’s next assignment is a five-Test series against England, starting in August, and Kohli warned that his team would need to heed the lessons of this defeat if they are to combat a similarly well-disciplined seam attack, featuring the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who won the corresponding series in 2018 by four Tests to one.
“You need to find ways to disrupt that,” Kohli said. “If you don’t put their bowlers under pressure then they have the fitness and the consistency to bowl long spells and keep bowling all day in the same areas and trouble you, and the more momentum you give them, then invariably they get the breakthroughs they want.”
“The mindset has to be to score runs and find ways to score runs,” he added. “You can’t be too worried about getting out because you are [then] bringing the bowler into the game completely and not moving the game forward. We know that, as a batting unit, if we consistently put up 300 on the board then it is a different kind of pressure on the opposition with the kind of bowlers that we have.
“The idea from here on will be to try to score runs and not worry about getting out in testing conditions,” Kohli said. “That’s the only way you can score and put the opposition under pressure, otherwise you’re just literally standing there hoping that you don’t get out and eventually you will because you’re not being optimistic enough.
“I think you have to take more risks and calculated risks and be confident about taking those risks against a quality bowling attack like New Zealand.”
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo