|Virat Kohli, after his century, on the first day of the first Test
against South Africa, at the Wanderers. (Reuters)
Johannesburg: Virat Kohli stood tall on the first day of the first Test against South Africa at the Wanderers, here, on Wednesday, easing into the No. 4 slot. It was Kohli’s 119 that was the cornerstone of India’s innings till now, as they ended the day on 255/5.
“You have to let them know that you are here to compete”, he said at the post-match media conference.
Virat said he was not thinking about batting at No. 4. “I wasn't thinking about it. I knew I might get to play at the slot once Sachin (Tendulkar) retired. It’s a huge challenge as he had done so much playing at No. 4. For me, it's all about scoring runs, no matter in which position I bat at. I like to bat early, to get into the action early, to get the plan together. Batting lower down the order is never easy.”
The following are excerpts
The emotions he is going through…
I have been waiting for this opportunity to bat up the order… I badly wanted to do so in Test cricket. I am so used to coming in at No. 3 in ODI’s. I like to get into the action early on, get in while conditions are tough and then dictate terms. I had a plan in mind. I wasn’t thinking about the bowling, the conditions or the wicket. I just wanted to execute my plan.
His feelings after getting the century…
Getting the hundred was an amazing feeling. I didn’t get runs in South Africa earlier. Never scored an international hundred here. I was very keen to do that in the ODIs but unfortunately I couldn’t. As I said, I had my plan, and I was able to execute it to my liking.
It was a very satisfying knock. A hundred in South Africa had always been on my mind. Even during the ODIs versus Australia (back in India), I was thinking about getting a Test hundred here.
I wasn’t even focussing on those ODIs or any other games we played against the West Indies. Every training session we had, I was motivating myself to do something like this here. I know how special it has been for players to get a hundred in South Africa. I am very pleased to get it. It is probably the best I have batted in Test cricket till now. Feels nice when you plan something and it comes together, specially against a world-class bowling attack.
Whether Cheteshwar Pujara’s run out affected him…
Obviously incidents do happen in cricket and it was unfortunate that Cheteshwar got run out. We were building up a good partnership. It was important to carry on and maintain my focus. It is not easy to come out of something like that quickly, but I knew I had to as I had to bat on. I had to get the team to a strong position.
On the South African bowling attack …
I don’t think they were threatening at all. They are quality bowlers, but it was about respecting the conditions early on. If they are good enough to play at this level, so are we. I had that belief, but I had to respect the good balls that were being bowled. But at the same time, you have to cash in on the opportunities that are presented to you. That was key to my knock today (Wednesday). I latched on to whatever chances that came my way, putting them away for boundaries.
Whether he was building on the ODI hunderd versus Australia in Nagpur…
This is a more important hundred, looking at the overall scenario. I am batting at No. 4 now, which is going to be a very crucial position for us going forward. Had to make a mark. You want to own a spot. As I said, I would love to bat up the order in Test matches. I was pretty happy playing the games where I was batting at No. 5 to 6. It was good for me to gain experience and get exposure. I knew I have the game and technique to do well in Tests, specially in South Africa. It’s very satisfying to bat up the order. A lot was expected of me. To block that out and focus on the plan and get a hundred, that is very pleasing.
On playing the pull shot convincingly…
Apparently, I was pretty soft after the first ODI. But I always knew we will get short stuff bowled at us, so we had to attack them. I would rather get out playing my shots than fishing outside the off stump. I was prepared and I was watching the ball closely. I was getting into position whenever they tried to put an extra effort.
Then they started bowling at the fifth and sixth stump. I don’t know where the bodyline bowling went. It was all about dictating terms when you bat. You have to let them know that you are here to compete.
We have shown we have learnt from our mistakes. We have practised hard. We stuck to our plans. You will see us improving as the series progresses.
Whether he made any mistakes…
I need to be satisfied with the score at end of the day. Can’t do anything about what has already happened. Don’t want to talk about it. We are humans, we make mistakes. We are not machines.
And it wasn’t intentional. The ball came slow off the pitch. I ended up rolling my wrists and didn’t get enough power in the shot.
It was not a rash stroke that I got caught in the slips. If you are batting at around 120 and still can’t go for your shots, then you never can. I am happy with the effort.
Batting at No. 4...
I wasn’t thinking about it. I knew I might get to play at the slot once Sachin (Tendulkar) retired. It’s a huge challenge as he had done so much playing at No. 4. For me, it’s all about scoring runs, no matter in which position I bat at. I like to bat early, to get into the action early, to get the plan together. Batting lower down the order is never easy. I want to commend (Ajinkya) Rahane on how he batted today (Wednesday). I’s only his second Test, his third Test innings. He showed a lot of character. I hope he can continue with that on Thursday.
His thoughts on captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni electing to bat…
I would have loved to bat though the day. But if you ask me, choosing to bat first after winning toss, with the kind of bowling attack we were about to face with our kind of young batting line-up, it was very pleasing.
The guys really fought it out in the middle. No one was all over the place. We were able to play whatever was thrown at us. We did make a few mistakes, but that will happen in Test cricket. People will test you. You saw Ajinkya towards the end.
He was getting into good positions as well. It was pleasing to see the batting effort. Hopefully, we can build on it on Thursday in the morning session, which will be very important. And then we need to bowl well.
I am pleased with the way the first day went. Maybe had we lost one less wicket, that would have meant 30 more runs… 280/4 would have been perfect. But we will take 255/5.
His ideal first-innings score on this pitch...
Would love to get 400 on board. If not, may be 350-370 as then they will have to score over 500 to put us under pressure. That will not be easy. We need to bowl well of course, in the right areas. We also need to first build on the platform that’s been laid. Hopefully guys can do well tomorrow and get quick runs.