Kolkata: The marquee Test series between India and England is being seen by many as a veritable semi-final to clinch the remaining finalist’s spot for the World Test Championship, with New Zealand being already assured of one a few days back. Indian skipper Virat Kohli, however, chose to underplay any pressure on that front in his ‘comeback’ press conference as captain after leaving the Australian tour midway on Thursday.
‘‘There is no pressure on that front. Making the final is a by-product of doing well in Tests. May be in New Zealand, we discussed it a bit more and that had created an impact on our performance. There is still time for it and it’s important to stay in the present,’’ said Kohli, looking very much focus and in control during a zoom interaction with the media.
His fatherhood may have been the trending topic over the past few weeks with the power couple finally releasing the photo of daughter Vamika on Instagram, but Kohli looked ready to move on after what he called the ‘‘greatest moment’’ of his life. ‘‘The connection with the team never goes away. I was watching all the games...in fact when Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar were putting up that partnership, I was watching it on my phone when the time for delivery of the child. I am so happy for the team irrespective of whether I was a part of it or not,’’ he said.
There was a sense of anticipation to gauge Kohli’s response on the captaincy issue after his deputy Ajinkya Rahane had come out with flying colours in rallying the team Down Under. If Rahane had cleared the air by saying his job is now to provide support to the team as a vice-captain a day before, Kohli said their relationship is based on mutual respect.
‘‘Things are very different in our change room from whatever the impression is outside. He (Rahane) fulfilled his responsibility with flying colours. There is a great deal of mutual respect, we enjoy batting with each other. On the field, he always had that capability to lead and the partnership and sense of camarderie will remain,’’ he said.
The Indian team had started their training sessions at the Chepauk from Monday and Kohli’s reading is it will be a good one for batting with spinners coming into play later. While he did not give out a playing XI, the master batsman gave enough indication that guys ‘‘who can bat and bowl’’ will be more in their scheme of things. This certainly explains the inclusion of Axar Patel in the squad in the squad in the absence of injured Ravindra Jadeja because of similar skill sets.
Rishabh Pant, however, will be keeping ahead of Wriddhiman Saha, something which was a bit of foregone conclusion after the former’s extraordinary efforts with the bat in Australia. The bowling options, despite the absence of Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav due to injuries, also leaves the team management in a happy space.
Finally, how would the team look ahead for this demanding series? ‘‘The idea is not to get carried away with our success in Australia - that was our chat in the first day. Everyone felt that we should now on,’’ Kohli added.
If and buts
What are the ifs and buts for making the WTC final for the ‘Big Three’ of India, England and Australia ? India will have to win the series against England either by 2-1, 2-0, 3-1, 3-0 or 4-0 margins. For England to qualify and join New Zealand, they will have to win the series against India by 3-1, 3-0 or 4-0 margin.
Australia can still qualify for the much-anticipated WTC final if the series between India and England ends up in a draw or if India win the series 1-0 or England win it by 1-0, 2-1 or a 2-1 margin.