The just-concluded Test series between England and India has been closely contested and immensely enjoyable throughout, and it got the finish it deserved when KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant added 204 for the sixth wicket to give India hopes of a dramatic victory.
India captain Virat Kohli, despite losing 4-1, paid tribute to their knocks, and to the format which he believes this series has breathed life into anew.
“A lot of credit has to go to both those young guys, stepping up at such a difficult stage, three wickets down for two runs,” Kohli said. “Jinks [Ajinkya Rahane] got stuck in with KL but I think the way KL and Rishabh batted showed the kind of character that we’ve got in the team and the kind of cricket that we’ve played in the series.
“It might not show in the scoreline but both the sides know that it’s been a competitive series, it’s taken a lot out of both the sides, and it’s been something that we’ve really enjoyed. We’ve taken up the challenge head on, and today was an example of two guys not giving up and actually entertaining the crowd. As I said, this is probably the revival of Test cricket again and shows people what it means to all of us, and for people watching as well it’s a great advertisement for Test cricket.”
He admitted that at the start of the day, which India began 58/3 and needing more than 400 to win, that he didn’t consider the prospect of victory, but also that that his team then got close only showed the beauty of Test cricket all the more.
“To be brutally honest we didn’t speak about if we can win this game or not,” he said. “The basic idea was to go out and play the game that we are known to play, whatever we feel confident about. When those two guys started hitting the ball well, we felt that there might be hope because those two were scoring runs freely and there were overs, but we knew England’s a professional side, and they will tighten up things. We were just waiting and watching.
“Very quickly things can change in Test cricket and we realised that with KL falling and then Rishabh falling as well that the situation can become totally different within the span of two-three overs. That’s the beauty of this format as well. That’s to take nothing away from those two guys who showed heart, especially someone like Rishabh who’s new to Test cricket, shown a lot of grit and character.
"KL’s been around for a while but this guy comes in and plays a knock like that when he’s not sure of how the few innings went before that. It tells us that we have character in the team, we just need more experience and how to close out situations. We have the belief in the team as well.”
He also had a few words to say about what he feels needs to be done to maintain the relevance of the format the world over.
“First and foremost there should be exciting pitches all over the world, and both teams should be willing to go for a result,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that when you go ahead in the series that you start playing safe cricket, that’s something that I don’t believe in, and I don’t think that any team should be in that sort of mindset. The fans will come and watch if both teams want to win and be competitive and that’s where the excitement in this format, Test cricket lies. I don’t think that should go away at all.”
His words about the toughness of Test cricket echoed those of Alastair Cook, who knows more than most; he retired today having completed his 160th Test match in succession. “Even today, Test cricket shows how hard it is,” said Cook. “It’s just been amazing, to contribute to an England win, to win the series 4-1, but also to a great game of cricket. Going into the last session of the last day with all three results possible was a great advert for Test cricket.
"You turn up thinking you need seven wickets and you’ve got a good chance of winning the game, but the way KL and Rishabh played, it was testing us right to the end. It shows what a hard game it is.”
After his interview had concluded, Kohli had one last thing he wanted to say to the legend of English cricket who had played his last. “Just one word for Alastair as well, who had a great career. I wish you well and want to congratulate you for doing what you’ve done and want to wish you all the very best for your future endeavours.”