India captain Virat Kohli lavished praise on Vizag Test hero Mohammed Shami, who picked up a five-wicket haul on the final day as the hosts registered a crushing 203-run victory in the series opener. According to Kohli, Shami’s journey has been fascinating.
“Now, he (Shami) is taking the responsibility. We don’t need to push Shami anymore. We don’t need to tell him ‘come on, you need to bowl this spell for us’. He wants the ball, he understands the situation when he’s given the ball,” Kohli said on the eve of the second Test at Pune on Wednesday.
While Shami has been doing all the right things, another spinner in Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav, who also has been doing the right things – he picked up five wickets in the last Test that he played against Australia in Sydney – may be wondering where he has gone wrong.
Kohli elaborated on how Shami’s ability to get movement off the pitch makes him deadly even on the most unsuitable surfaces for fast bowling.
“I think on the pitches we play, I don’t see anyone with so much seam movement apart from him (Shami),” the skipper said.
“He is someone who can change the complexion of the match totally when you don’t see it coming. His skill is obviously there for everyone to see. Especially, in the second innings, when the situations are difficult, he comes in and does the job every time. It’s great.”
Kohli said that Kuldeep knows the reason why he is not in the Test eleven. “No one is self-centred and everyone is thinking about what I can do for the team. It’s the same about Kuldeep. He understands that in India, Ashwin and Jadeja will be our first choices because they give us so much more with the bat as well,” he said.
India have been formidable at home having lost just one Test against Australia at Pune in 2017. Kohli wants everyone to see the results and understand why it has been done.
“Lot has been spoken and said about the system that we have followed over the last two years. The only thing that matters to us is wanting to win as many games as we can and have been able to do that,” said Kohli.
“We have the least losing percentage in the last three years and there is a good reason for that. We obviously are flexible but as I said it can’t be possible if the team doesn’t buy into it. The guys have bought into it.”
What has pleased the Indian captain has been that players have been accepting their responsibilities at different stages of the game.
The skipper didn’t seem too concerned about the prospect of rain during the course of the match in Pune to have an impact on the team combination.
“More or less, our team is settled and I don’t think pitch will play that big a factor because when the pitch is damp, it turns as well. It’s not that only seamers are predominantly effective, spinners will also be effective on all five days,” he said.
“Unless you have a pitch that has total grass coverage, only then you think of combination too much. Because you do know that it will dry out at some stage and you can’t go with one-sided (one dimensional) attack and not have balance.”
Quizzed whether Rohit Sharma has “fulfilled” his expectations as an opener, he said in jest: “It’s overflowing and just not filled.”
“Come on, give the guy a break now. He’s done well, let him enjoy his batting at the top of the order. Let him just have fun like he does in white ball cricket. Stop focussing on what Rohit is going to do. He’s in great space.”