Virat Kohli has admitted that that there is “no running away” from the fact that India’s batting needs to be looked into, after the team lost a closely fought Test series 2-1 to South Africa.
India had won the first Test in Centurion, but South Africa ended up chasing 200-plus totals in both Johannesburg and Cape Town to surge to victory, sealing it with a seven-wicket triumph at Newlands on Friday, the fourth day of the third Test.
“It is definitely batting. I don’t think we can pinpoint any other aspect of our game as a team,” Kohli said at the post-match presentation when speaking of what led to the defeat. “Yes, the batting obviously has to be looked into. There’s no running away from that. Having collapses every now and then is not a good thing. And that’s something we need to analyse and correct, moving forward.”
All of Mayank Agarwal, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara averaged in the low 20s in the series, having played all three Tests. The tour continued a lean run for Pujara and Rahane, India’s regular No.3 and No.5 for a long time now, but whose form has come under increasing scrutiny in recent times. Since the start of 2020, Pujara has averaged 26.29 from 20 Tests, while Rahane has averaged 24.08 from 19 games.
While India have played against top-quality attacks in bowling-friendly conditions in the last two years, Pujara and Rahane’s averages are at the bottom for those who have batted at least ten innings in the top order (from No.1 to No.6).
At the press conference after the game, Kohli elaborated specifically on Pujara and Rahane, when asked about their immediate Test futures.
“Honestly, I cannot sit here and talk about what’s going to happen in the future,” Kohli said. “That’s not for me to sit here and discuss, you probably have to speak to the selectors, what they have in mind, because this is not my job. As I said before and I will say again, we have continued to back Cheteshwar and Ajinkya because of the kind of players they are, what they have done in Test cricket for India over the years, and playing crucial knocks in the second Test as well.
“You saw that important partnership in the second innings [of the second Test], which got us to a total that we could fight for, so these are the kind of performances that we recognise as a team. What the selectors have in mind and what they decide to do, I obviously cannot comment at this moment sitting here.”
Reflecting more broadly on the defeat, Kohli said the team needed to come back better, to try and win a series in a country that no Indian team has so far.
“Obviously very disappointed. We know how far we’ve come as a team,” Kohli said. “The fact that we come to South Africa and people expect us to beat the South African team in their own conditions is testimony to what we’ve done in the past. But that doesn’t guarantee you any results. We still have to come out here and play hard cricket, which we failed to do this time around.
“I’m not going to stand here and say, ‘Oh but we won in Australia, we won in England’. You have to turn up to every series and try to win that series, and we haven’t done it in South Africa and that’s the reality of the situation. We need to accept it, get better, move forward, and come back better cricketers. You give credit to the opposition when it’s due and definitely this time around, as the case was the last time as well [in 2018 where India also lost 2-1], South Africa were much better than us in their own conditions.”
On the positives to take from this series, Kohli praised the bowlers, and in particularly KL Rahul’s returns as an opener along with Rishabh Pant’s swashbuckling century in the third Test.
“I think the way KL batted as an opener was quite heartening to see,” he said. “Mayank Agarwal got stuck in as well on a couple of occasions. Obviously, the bowling was outstanding. A few crucial knocks from the guys through those middle overs periods, and eventually Rishabh’s knock in the second innings of this Test match was quite special. Obviously the first win at Centurion was very special as well. So yes, you take out whatever you can from a series like this and as I said, move ahead, come back improved cricketers and try to do the job one more time.”