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Kohli heaps praise on 'multi-dimensional team' after South Africa sweep

Ind v SA, 3rd Test, day four, reaction

After his side effected a 3-0 win over South Africa – the first time they’ve won all matches in a Test series against them – India captain Virat Kohli was proud of the 'team-first' culture that his players have cultivated.

Kohli’s India are ranked No.1 in the world in the MRF Tyres ICC Test Team Rankings and performed every bit like a team holding that honour, clinically wiping out South Africa with bat and ball, and on the field. Moreover, their win in the third and final Test in Ranchi, which concluded on Tuesday, 22 October, was also their largest against this opposition – by an innings and 202 runs.

“Even in one match we didn’t get all out, and we won 3-0. It’s a spectacular team performance," Kohli said at the post-match press conference. "It’s rare that you get to see that whoever gets a chance is performing. It’s something to be happy about for us, that we’ve created a culture where people don’t think about themselves and put the team first. Only then are these performances possible. 

“The bowlers did a fantastic job together, you never saw a situation where one bowler took eight wickets while the rest did nothing. So whoever comes on to bowl looks like he might get a wicket in every spell.”

While India performed exceptionally well as a collective unit, several individuals stood out for their brilliance. Most notable among them was Rohit Sharma, who in his first series as Test opener, racked up 529 runs at 132.25, with three hundreds in four innings, including his maiden double-century in Ranchi.

Rohit’s opening partner Mayank Agarwal also impressed with his consistency, following up his double-century in the series opener in Visakhapatnam with 108 in the second Test in Pune. Also among the takeaways was India’s fast-bowling attack, which snared 26 of the 58 wickets their bowlers took – an uncharacteristically high portion for a series in India. Umesh Yadav was brilliant in his comeback series, taking 11 wickets in two Tests.

“As an opener, Rohit has anticipation of the challenges that he may face,” Kohli said. “In one-day cricket, he has been one of the best in the world for quite some time. So to overcome that and to have batted the way he did, because of the rate at which he scored, even after missing two-three sessions in a Test, we had so much time to bowl and dismiss the opposition twice. Credit goes to the player because he was able to overcome the pressure and anxiety to produce a Man of the Series performance in his first very first series as an opener.

“Ditto with Mayank, he’s a new opener and has done well consistently. Jinx [Ajinkya Rahane] made a century after a long time at home, and scored one in Test cricket after a long time in the West Indies. So things have moved in a positive direction for some time and, like I said, it feels good to see as a team that individuals are standing up at various points and delivering.

“If you look at these two guys [Umesh and Shami], their strike-rate is probably the best in Indian conditions in history [minimum 10 Tests in India], which tells you that these guys hit the stumps more and the pads more than anyone else before them. It’s again a great sign of the kind of intent the bowlers are running in with now. The fitness levels have obviously gone up. You bowl three good overs, and if you’re tired, then the other two are not as effective and we lose the opportunity to take a wicket after creating pressure.

“But these guys are relentless, they’re running in to just pick wickets, bowl in the areas that make batsmen uncomfortable. We’ve become a multi-dimensional team now and it’s not one thing you need to counter when you’re playing against us. The only thing we need to keep a check on is the workloads and make sure we have enough bench strength to keep this culture and standard of Indian cricket going for many years.”

Also among the positives was the performance of the debutant left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem, who took four wickets and impressed with his control and accuracy. “I’ve played with Nadeem before too, in Under-19 cricket,” Kohli said, “Since then, we knew he was a skilful bowler. The conventional skills he has as a left-arm spinner, he puts revolutions on the ball, seam position is good, and he bowls at good pace. To bowl in one area consistently, it was a good start, he bowled with a lot of composure.

“He remained unbeaten with the bat, effected a run out and bowled well in both innings. I feel happy for him because I’ve known him for a long time. He has the quality without doubt, and to come as a replacement in this kind of a spin attack already tells you of his quality. From here, he can only go ahead.”

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