Kohli ‘at peace’ with form as India gear up for Test decider Virat Kohli after a training session in Newlands. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)
Indian captain Virat Kohli on Monday brushed aside concerns about his form as he looked ahead to the decisive third Test against South Africa starting at Newlands on Tuesday.
Without a century in his past 14 Tests, Kohli said he believed he was still making important contributions to the team.
“I don’t look at myself from the lens that the outside world looks at me with,” said the 33-year-old who has been a fixture in the Test team since making his debut against the West Indies in 2011.
“The standards that they are talking about have been set by myself, they are not an utterance from outside.
“I take a lot of pride in wanting to do the best thing for the team and wanting to perform regularly for the team.
“I have been able to do that for a long period of time.”
Kohli’s last Test hundred came against Bangladesh in Kolkata over two years ago in November 2019 but he said he had still been contributing.
“As a player and a batsman I have been involved in many important moments for the team over the last calendar year or so,” he said.
“I have been part of very important partnerships when the team needed me and those moments have been crucial for us in many Test matches.
“I’m at peace with how I am playing.”
His opposite number Dean Elgar, whose 96 not out guided South Africa to a memorable victory in the second Test at the Wanderers last week, believes India will be a better team with Kohli back in the line-up.
“Virat brings a different dynamic to the game,” said Elgar.
“His team missed him no doubt, from a captaincy point of view and maybe a strategy point of view.
“He’s a world-class player and very experienced. He’s one of the more respected cricketers around.”
Kohli said he was fully fit after missing India’s defeat in the second Test in Johannesburg because of a back spasm.
However, fast bowler Mohammed Siraj will not be playing after suffering a hamstring strain in Johannesburg.
– ‘Balance’ –
The Indian captain said he took pride in his fitness but injuries such as those he suffered last week and which kept Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja out of the South Africa tour were “natural occurrences” for players involved in all formats of the game.
“I have been playing three formats (for India) and in the IPL (Indian Premier League) for almost 10 years,” he said.
“There has to be the right balance between the quantity and intensity of the cricket that we play.”
With the series against South Africa tied at 1-1, Kohli praised the collective commitment and passion that had driven India to rise from seventh when he took over the captaincy in 2014 to the number one ranking in Test cricket.
“I laid out a vision and a path that we needed to follow and I had to lead from the front because I knew that I had to play with a very high intensity to be able to drive this passion and this motivation and this environment.”
He said the Indian team now believed they could win from any situation.
Kohli said a key factor was the emergence of a group of fast bowlers that made selection “confusing” and which had opposition teams “thinking of our bowling line-up before they start thinking of conditions”.
Elgar, who sees the Newlands Test as South Africa’s most important Test in the last 10 years, indicated that the Proteas would play the same team despite having only six recognised batsmen in the line-up.
He said that left-arm fast bowler Marco Jansen, who batted at number seven in Johannesburg, had “a lot of (batting) talent, even though he hasn’t got experience”.
He also called on the specialist batsmen to “take ownership” on what he expected to be a good batting pitch for the full five days.