Shared News: December 20, 2020 8:06:28 am
India’s Virat Kohli stands with crossed arms near the end of their match against Australia on the third day of their cricket test match at the Adelaide Oval in Adelaide, Australia, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020. Australia won the match. (Source: AP)
Virat Kohli was not so much lost for words as he was for emotions, when he addressed the press after a shambolic defeat that included India’s slump to its lowest total in Test history. The words streamed out of his tongue like they always do, in a flurry. The gaze was firm and fixed, as it usually is.
The eyes were disturbingly serene. They betrayed no anguish or angst, neither fear nor shock. A sort of expressionless expression, as if tranced in a supernatural incident. As if the mind is frozen.
It was as unusual as Kohli ever had been in his career. He wears his emotions on the sleeve and the eyes.
On Saturday, Kohli could summon neither courage nor conviction, dissection or defence, sarcasm or sorrow. A man who feeds on emotions seemed emotionless. He seemed as lost as the rest of the cricket world seemed to be, unable to react, empty and desolate. Nudging into the sixth year of captaincy, he has lost matches badly, lost matches that he should not have, rode the rough waves and rolled down the slope. But seldom looked defeated. Not in Galle or Wellington, not in Durban or Birmingham.
“Strange,” he said when asked to assess how the first session rolled out. Then he paused, the pause hanging awkwardly before he added: “Everything happened so quickly that no one could make any sense of it. That was very, very surprising and disappointing for everyone.”
The remainder of the press conference seemed like an autopsy when the sombre surgeon gives the most commonplace of answers, hurrying through the formality of interaction.
Collapses? They are routine in Test cricket. “Playing at the highest level, there will definitely be collapses again and again. We have to accept our mistakes and understand what we need to work on. But this is not club-level cricket,” he said.
No cause for undue worries, he asserts, despite the fact that India has not crossed 300 in their last six outings. “I don’t think it’s anything alarming. We can very well sit here and make a mountain of a molehill. It is basically looking things in the right perspective and knowing what we need to do as a team moving forward to Melbourne,” he said.
The mountain-out-of-molehill imagery could not have been more ill-timed or inappropriate. In the wake of this defeat, Kohli’s words rung hollow. Almost silly.
Was it a mindset issue, having not played Test in nearly 10 months? “No,” he stressed before elaborating: “We have played enough cricket to understand what needs to be done at different stages of a Test match. I don’t think any mental fatigue was involved. It was just a lack of execution.”
He singled out the lack of intent as the defining reason for the defeat. “If your mindset is not right, like ours wasn’t today when we lacked in intent, the opposition can sense it and put you under extreme pressure. That is exactly what happened,” he said.
Virat Kohli shakes hands with Australian players after the end of the Adelaide Test. (AP)
There though was repentance. In the catches they dropped, and in letting Tim Paine eat into the lead with his breezy batting. “That definitely would have been a boost for us if we had a lead of a few runs more. If we already had 100 runs as lead and with a decent start, the opposition starts panicking. In Test cricket, if you do not take your chances when they come your way, they can be very costly,” he said.
More importantly, in the lack of fight in the second innings. “They were bowling similar lengths in the first innings as well. We were just better at playing those and having a plan around it and how we wanted to go about things,” he said.
He then lamented the lack of positivity. “I think the way we batted allowed them to look more potent than they were in the morning. They bowled similarly in the first innings and we batted way, way better. A bit of lead can always be tricky because as a batting unit you can go into a headspace where you feel like we are just 50 or 60 ahead and you don’t want to lose early wickets and allow opposition back into the game,” he said.
The only time he showed a strain of emotion was when someone asked about comfort zone. “In international cricket, there is nothing like a comfort zone,” he said, his eyes burning with rage.
He, of course, emphasised his colleagues’ capacity to recover, even without him. “I’m confident the team will bounce back strongly. I’m confident that we will learn from this. I don’t think we have ever had a bad batting collapse than this and it can only go up from here,” he stressed.
But even the defence lacked the usual vigour.