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We are in a better shape to counter SA: Captain Kohli

Hardik Pandya

Calcutta: India captain Virat Kohli chose sarcasm to answer a question on vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane at a media conference ahead of the second Test against South Africa, which will begin in Centurion from Saturday.

Virat was asked how close was Rahane to making a comeback to the side after being kept out of the Cape Town Test. He answered: “It’s funny how things change in a matter of weeks, or just about five days… Before the first Test, no one thought that he should be in the XI and now suddenly people are looking at the that option.

For us, as a team it’s all about finding the right balance. If a player fits in in the kind of balance we want to go in with as a side, then they will fit in. We certainly don’t go on opinions that are created outside, talk of the town and all those sort of things…

“He’s a quality player, he’s done well in South Africa, in all conditions actually away from home. He’s probably been our most consistent and solid player away from home. I had explained the reasons why Rohit (Sharma) started ahead of him.

I’m not saying that Ajinkya cannot or will not start in this game. All possibilities are all open at the moment,” he said.

It is important to note that though Kohli says that no one thought Rahane should be in the XI for the first Test, it was actually completely different. Most, including majority of pundits, were surprised when it was known that Rahane, who boasts of an excellent overseas record, was not included in the team for the opening Test. 

After struggling on the Newlands pitch, an obvious question was about the SuperSport Park wicket. Asked if the Centurion wicket looked any different, Kohli said: “I don’t think so. It looks likely a really lively pitch. It is exactly what we expected it to be and we actually wanted it to be that way so that both teams are in the contest, provided they play some good cricket. We were happy to see how the wicket behaved in Cape Town. It gave us opportunities to stay in the match. This pitch will again test us to play our best cricket and that is something that we are looking forward to do.”

Given the failure of the Indian batting line-up in the first Test, Kohli was asked if he intends playing an extra batsman instead of the spinner (Ravichandran Ashwin).

Kohli said: “Look, all kind of situations are possible… You take into account what are the pros and cons… And you finally come to a conclusion that feels balanced among all the situations you are thinking of.”

Talking of the right balance, the captain said: “The line-up has changed in the past due to conditions, also because of injuries on many occasions. That’s something that has continued for a while.

“The balance is as easy or as difficult as the performance of the team. We are very happy with the way the bowlers went about their business. The batting didn’t come out well. I’m not worried on the bowling front at all.”

“I don’t think we need to panic because of collapses. People need to apply themselves much better, whether we are playing five batsmen or six, you still need to apply yourself.

“And as far as the opening combination goes, we will decide about that. We might do something different, but there is definitely no need to panic,” Kohli said.

Asked what is it about the South African conditions that the Indian batsmen find it very difficult to bat, Kohli said: “One must not get surprised by the bounce here.

This pitch is going to be pretty similar in terms of pace and bounce. I definitely feel the batting order, through mistakes we committed in the first game and through the experience we gained in the first game, we are certainly in a much better shape to counter at their bowling attack in this Test.”     

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