Virat Kohli has picked out India’s historic series win in Australia as the “biggest achievement of his career” so far.
“It has to be right on the top of the pile [of my achievements],” he said in the post-match presentation. “When we won the World Cup in 2011, I was the youngest member of the side. I saw people around me getting emotional, but I didn’t feel what they felt. Having been to this country for the third time now and to understand what we’ve achieved here has never been done before, we can be proud of it. This win will give us a different identity as an Indian team and can inspire kids to do the same for the country going forward.”
It was in Sydney where he was appointed full-time captain, in January 2015. Clinching a historic first at the same venue four years later, he felt would give his team “a new identity.”
“This win is definitely a stepping stone [for Indian cricket],” he said. “If you see the average age of this side is quite low. The most important thing we have is belief. We believed in South Africa and England [even though we lost] that we are on the right track. We have results now. It’s not about what voices think of you from the outside. It’s about what you believe as a group. We’ve always been honest, going in the right direction. The intent has been good to take Indian cricket forward in the best way possible. Here we stand with the most-outstanding result we can think of.”
Kohli also insisted it was “the team makes a captain look good”, and that he hadn’t been part of a better dressing room. “Firstly, want to say I’ve never been more proud to be part of a team than this one right here,” he said. “I think the culture we have been able to build over the last 12 months [has been fantastic]. I’m proud to be part of this team. To lead these players is an honour and privilege. They make a captain look good.”
Kohli heaped special praise on “nicest guy” Cheteshwar Pujara for his batting. Pujara, who four years ago was left out of the Test XI at this very venue owing to bad form, returned to top score with 193 to earn the Player-of-the-Match award. He also finished the series as the highest run-scorer, making 521 runs in seven innings at an average of 74.42.
“We spoke about as a team that we just wanted to go back to the basics, and not be flamboyant but have the old hard grind for runs,” he said. “A special mention to Pujara. He has been outstanding this series, after the kind of series he had last time when he came here. He’s one guy who was willing to accept things, take it in his stride and work on his game.
“He’s one of the nicest guys around. I’m happy for him. Also a special mention to Mayank Agarwal, he stepped in and batted like a champion. To come in for the Boxing Day Test and play the way he did against a high-quality attack speaks volumes of the mindset and belief he has. As a batting unit, everyone contributed at different times. Rishabh coming in and dominating attacks like that augers well. Once batsmen start scoring, we knew our bowlers can be relentless and lethal.”
Kohli was also effusive in his praise for the bowling group for doing the heavy lifting, not just in Australia but also in South Africa and England, where they kept putting India into positions from where they could force favourable results. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma picked up a combined 48 wickets.
“The way the bowlers have dictated terms and dominated, not just here but on the previous two tours has been fantastic,” he said. “I haven’t seen in Indian cricket, playing four bowlers and getting the kind of results like this overseas. Hats off to their fitness and mindset.
“They never look at a pitch and say things like ‘there’s nothing for us.’ They dictate plans to me and that’s a revelation for Indian cricket. It’s a lesson for all bowlers back home to get into that mindset early in their careers. These guys are going to be looked up to for a long, long time. Breaking records of the great West Indies fast bowlers is no small feat, very proud of it.”