After suffering his first series defeat in the ICC World Test Championship, India captain Virat Kohli put his team's disappointing showing in the two-match series against New Zealand down to getting overwhelmed by the conditions.
India arguably had to start from behind in both the Tests, owing to losing the toss on each occasion, but while that, by no means, could solely be blamed for the defeat, Kohli did acknowledge to the team fussing too much about how the ball and pitch would behave.
"Having clarity, as batsmen," Kohli said, when asked what his team needed to rectify. "We have performed in difficult conditions in the past as well, and we understand that we were in a good frame of mind when we were playing in those conditions at that period. It's about trying to get into that space more often than not. And for that, you need to think positively on every day of the Test match, every situation, every session that you are a part of.
"[It's] something we failed to do as a batting unit, and I truly believe that we made too much of the conditions from the first day onwards of the first Test. Overcast, a bit of dampness on the pitch – we never used to speak of these things before. So, yeah, it can creep in every now and then, it's about not letting it grow, not letting it become a norm, something that we as a side have not done at all. We don't go into conditions and think that we might not be able to execute what we want to. We've always gone in with a very positive outlook, and your skill follows how you think.”
India’s cause was not helped by the poor form of Kohli himself. The captain returned with 38 runs in four innings in the Tests. And with just one score of more than 50 after 11 outings across formats, it was a dismal tour for the 31-year-old – a rare occurrence in his 12-year international career.
The mental issues that Kohli speaks of showed in his own game, as New Zealand’s bowlers repeatedly exploited his weakness outside the off-stump. Kohli perished to it in the first innings of the first Test, but to his credit, dealt with it ably thereafter, showing patience and determination in letting the balls go. However, it proved to be nothing more than a set-up for the vicious in-ducker, which undid Kohli in both innings of the Christchurch Test.
"If you're not clear in your head, then the feet don't move,” Kohli said. “You're not quite sure whether to play the shot or not, leave the ball or play the ball. I think these sorts of things can creep in, and have crept in in this series. It's something we have recognised already. The good thing is that everyone's understood what's happened and is very keen to improve it. It's all mental. I don't see any problem with anyone's game as such. It's mental, and it's something that can happen at this level and we just need to accept it and iron it out and move ahead.
"The outlook, as far as I am concerned, and as far as I saw things happening, was not ideal for us in this series. We were not positive enough, we were not brave enough in moments, which we have done in the past. In the crunch moments [previously], we have just gone for it; even though we have lost, still we compete. Those are things for me that need to be ironed out."
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