Virat Kohli believes India have the team balance required to win a Test series in South Africa for the first time.
India’s two-day warm-up match against a CSA XI, which was scheduled to take place at Boland Park, was called off at the BCCI’s behest. The tourists instead opted for a few training sessions ahead of the first Test at Newlands, which starts next Friday.
On Saturday, India practised at the Western Province Cricket Club in Cape Town on a wicket Kohli described as ‘not even 15%’ of what they would experience at Newlands.
‘There’s no point wasting two days [in a warm-up match] with guys going in and scoring 15, then going out,’ the India captain told the media. ‘In a two-day game, there is no opportunity for us to change the wicket. Here we have the freedom to prepare wickets the way we want them and to have practice sessions that are in our control.’
In December 2013, India toured South Africa for a reduced two-Test series. The first match at the Wanderers was drawn, while the Proteas won the second by 10 wickets at Kingsmead in Durban.
In 2010-11, India came away with a 1-1 draw. The Proteas won the first Test by an innings and 25 runs in Centurion, but the tourists won the second, at Kingsmead, by 87 runs. The third match at Newlands was a draw.
‘The last time we played here, there was talk about us struggling against the short ball,’ said Kohli, ‘but I think our batsmen stood up to the short ball nicely. We are prepared for what we going to get here and aren’t under any delusions as to what we going to be presented with.
‘Our best result here has been a drawn series in 2010-11. With the bowling attack we have and the balance we have in the side we definitely believe we can win here this time. There are no two ways about it. If we never had that mindset then there was no reason for us to get on the flight. We come here wanting to express ourselves, believing in our abilities and believing we have the right balance to win Test matches in any conditions we play in.
‘This is an opportunity for us to play good cricket,’ he added. ‘We are not going into this game thinking we are playing South Africa or any other country, it’s about winning sessions, being in the present and executing our skills well; not looking at the history of what has happened in any country we played in. If we are not well prepared, we will end up losing. International cricket is all about staying in the present and trying to do things better than the opposition at all times.
‘The most important thing is to not get surprised by the pace and bounce. We have convinced ourselves that it will be a lot quicker and a lot bouncier than back home. The best way to deal with it is to face it head on and believe in our abilities.’
India are currently ranked No 1 in Test cricket, having won nine consecutive series. While six of those series were played in India and another two in similar conditions in Sri Lanka (the other one was in the West Indies), Kohli said they still had to be won.
‘If someone can give it to me in writing that we can just turn up, not having practiced or prepared your home conditions at all, not being disciplined or focused about the game and still win every series that we’ve played … The schedule did turn out that we ended up playing a lot of series at home, but we still beat Sri Lanka away twice.’
Kohli said the team had gained a lot of confidence from their performance in Australia in 2014-15, despite losing the four-match Test series 2-0.
‘That tour laid the foundation for this team. We were the only team to have posted 450-plus in every game played we played in Australia, ever.
‘We are looking forward to this period,’ he added. ‘We have the skill-sets to do well anywhere in the world. We have the opportunity because of the average age and the amount of cricket we are going to play. We want to enjoy playing together. The team looks good as unit and we have a good team spirit.’
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