Ajinkya Rahane’s slump in form can’t be “judged” by anyone, not even skipper Virat Kohli, who feels that his Test deputy needs an arm of assurance around his shoulders as he figures out what exactly is he “going through”.
The Indian captain, after the team’s thumping 1-0 series win over New Zealand, answered some tricky questions, including his own form or the lack of it which, he said, couldn’t be connected to any repetitive pattern of dismissals.
He also said that some discussions about team combination will happen ahead of India’s tour of South Africa later this month.
“I can’t judge his (Rahane’s) form. No one can judge it. Only the individual knows what he’s going through,” Kohli said when asked about the Mumbaikar’s poor patch which has resulted in an average of less than 20 across 12 Tests.
For Kohli, it is important that Rahane, for all his good past record, feels secure and the team wouldn’t like to press the panic button just yet.
“We need to back them in these moments, especially when they have done well in the past. We don’t have this environment where we have our players asking ‘what happens now? That’s not how we do it in the side.”
Kohli feels that a team can’t react like outsiders, who will praise a player to the moon and back and then rip him apart within a couple of months after a string of low scores.
“We as players know what happens in the team and in our heads. There’s a lot going on outside and we can’t let those things affect the way we play. We support everybody in the side, Ajinkya or anyone.”
“We don’t take decisions based on what happens outside,” Kohli made it clear.
‘Don’t see anything that needs correction’
Kohli hasn’t scored an international hundred since the Pink Ball Test in Kolkata against Bangladesh in 2019 but over the past two years, he hasn’t felt any alarm about the manner of his dismissals.
“We stick to the process but if the mode of dismissal is repetitive then there’s something we need to address. See, it’s about playing 60-70 balls to get a feel for it.
“Sometimes those things happen naturally and sometimes they don’t, but the only constant is that you work hard and trust the process. That shouldn’t waiver because that comes from personal experience,” the skipper, who is now the first Indian player to win 50 matches across each format, said.
“You have to keep an eye on evolving and weed out repetitive mistakes, those need to be ironed out. You have to understand and believe that you can overcome these slumps. That’s the battle, the believing.”
Gill-Iyer in middle order? Needs discussion, says skipper
The skipper predictably kept cards close to his chest when it came to divulging combination for the South Africa Tests starting December 26.
With the middle-order looking wobbly and both Shreyas Iyer and Shubman Gill performing well against New Zealand, some spots will be up for grabs and the skipper did indicate that some serious deliberations will happen in the coming days.
“Again that’s a discussion that needs to take place. Who we think are the specialists for certain positions and so on will be covered there. These aren’t things I can answer in a press conference, we need to sit down with it and come to collective decisions.
“That’s the same process we will follow. Everyone puts in their ideas and then we make our decision,” said Kohli.
But with Iyer, Mayank Agarwal, and Mohammed Siraj all performing well, it’s actually a good headache to have.
“Always good to know exactly what you want to do before heading to a series like South Africa,” he echoed coach Rahul Dravid’s sentiments.
Performance like this will help Mayank build his character
Mayank Agarwal was unfortunate to miss out on the England tour as he suffered from concussion before the opening Test and then KL Rahul grabbed his chance.
The skipper is happy that with innings of 150 and 62 against New Zealand, Agarwal is back with a bang.
“Great application from him. …You need to have a lot of character, and he has plenty of that. It’s not just about riding the wave and playing on, it’s about evolution and he has constantly done that,” Kohli said.
“Also, a performance like this will build character and help him going forward, not only as a batsman but also as a person.
“He’s definitely an asset and he has fantastic character. These innings will give him a lot of confidence,” he added.
Siraj doesn’t bank on conditions
On a track where New Zealand pacers Tim Southee and Kyle Jamieson struggled, Siraj literally spit fire during an early burst in the opposition’s first innings. Kohli said he wasn’t surprised.
“He has come a long way. He has a lot of skill and talent. The way he bowls and puts effort, you think he’s going to pick up wickets always. That’s a special thing to have when the pitches are tough and wickets are not falling,” Kohli said about the Indian pace attack’s new ‘X’ factor.
Siraj is actually turning into a bowler who isn’t dependant on the conditions.
“He doesn’t really bank on conditions, he has a lot of skill and he banks on that instead. He can make important breakthroughs.
“See, even at the Lord’s, when the ball stopped swinging, he was making the ball move and gave us some crucial breakthroughs,” Kohli remembered.
“He’s in the best headspace as a bowler. Now, it’s about staying there and staying fit,” he concluded.