India captain believes England were deserving winners
After losing four Tests in a row as captain, Virat Kohli desperately needs his side to bounce back quickly from their crushing defeat by England in the opening match of the Test series.
Team changes are certain for the second match that starts in Chennai on Saturday after the 227-run mauling by Joe Root’s England that the media called “a shock” and a “rude jolt”.
Kohli returned from paternity leave to take charge of a team on a high after their landmark series win in Australia last month, when they came back from a match down to win 2-1.
Kohli lost twice in New Zealand, once in Australia — when he saw his side skittled out for 36 — and now at home to England in his last four Tests in charge.
While no one has criticised the captain, who got the top score of 72 in the Indian second innings of 192, there will be intense scrutiny of the way he and coach Ravi Shastri lift the team before the next of the four-match series.
Known for his aggression and demand for discipline within his side, Kohli has already vowed to come back fighting.
“We are a side that accepts our failures and faults and learns from them,” the captain said after the loss. “One thing is for sure that in the next three matches we are going to give a tough fight and not let things slip away like it did in this Test.”
Kohli found fault with India’s batting and bowling in his post-match comments when he praised England for being “far more professional”.
The top order batting “left a lot to be desired”, he said. The bowlers gave away too many runs when England hit 578 in the first innings after Root won a crucial toss.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin claimed six wickets to dismiss England for 178 in the second innings but received little help from left-arm orthodox Shahbaz Nadeem.
Kohli singled out slow bowlers Washington Sundar and Shahbaz for criticism.
“You need your bowling unit to step up and create pressure on the opposition,” he said. “If you talk about the fast bowlers and Ashwin, then we bowled consistently well in good areas. But had Washi and Shahbaz bowled economical spells, then the situation would have been better.”
Kohli flew back from Australia for the birth of his daughter last month after the team’s opening loss. Ajinkya Rahane led the team to a 2-1 win and pressure has since increased on Kohli’s leadership.
But former batsman Sanjay Manjrekar said Rahane’s batting form is a cause of worry before debating his captaincy skills. Rahane made one and nought in Chennai.
“My issue with Rahane the captain is Rahane the batsman,” Manjrekar wrote on Twitter. “After that 100 in Melbourne his scores are – 27, 22, 4, 37, 24, 1 and 0. After a hundred, class players carry their form and carry the burden of players out of form.”
Kohli though defended his deputy, saying Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara remain India’s batting core.
“Ajinkya, I have said this many a times in the past as well along with Pujara, he is our most important Test batsman and will continue to be as we believe in his abilities and he is an impact player.”
England were the last team to win a series in India in 2013—when Root made his Test debut—but suffered a 4-0 battering on their last trip in 2016-17.
Having won six foreign Tests in a row, England are growing in confidence but Root has also warned his side about an Indian backlash.
“They are a very proud nation,” Root said. “They’ve got some exceptional players so they’ll come back hard.”