Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli feels that he will not be under any added pressure to perform with Ravi Shastri, considered to be his favourite choice for the post of head coach, back in the team replacing Anil Kumble.
India enjoyed a successful spell under Kumble but the leg-spin legend’s contract was not renewed amid a supposedly sour relationship with his captain.
Now that Kohli and Shastri have come together again, the performances will be further scrutinised.
But at the pre-departure press conference ahead of the tour of Sri Lanka, Kohli on Wednesday said that he is not distracted by the off-field drama that surrounded the appointment of the coaching staff which is now Shastri’s “core team”.
“I don’t think there is added pressure. What has to happen will happen. Criticism and being criticised is nothing new to us. Whatever is happening off the field doesn’t bother us. I do not take any added pressure. I started as a player and you only focus on the series that you have to play,” he said as the team embarks on a tour featuring three Tests, five One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and a one-off Twenty20 International.
“I only have the bat in hand. I only focus on doing what is in my hand and that is to play. Speculation is not in my control. My job is to bring the best out on the field and make this team do well.”
On the team’s equation with Shastri, Kohli said: “We have worked together earlier as well so I don’t think much effort will be required to understand each other.”
Shastri elaborated upon how he will go about his job. “I carry on from where I left. The fabric of Indian cricket will remain, these Ravi Shastris and Anil Kumbles will come and go. I don’t come with any baggage. The team has done exceedingly well over three years. If they are No.1 today, they (the players) are the people who deserve the credit,” Shastri said.
“As a player, when you play the game, you want the mind to be very clear. You don’t want any distraction and that happens with a good support staff. My job is to do just that. I want the players to only think about their roles.”
Shastri again defended the selection of Bharat Arun as bowling coach. “There is a track record — 15 years he has been coaching. (His coaching career) It’s outstanding right from the junior teams, the ‘A’ teams to the junior World Cup teams. He knows these boys better than I do,” he said.
“If Bharat Arun’s name was someone else, you would have put it on top of the tree. His strengths are for everyone to see.”
Kohli recollected his first Test series win as India captain in 2015 against Sri Lanka. A young Indian team lost the first of the three-match series but came back to win the next two to mark the side’s first away Test series win in four years.
“That was a landmark tour for us. Because if you look at the average age, that tour for us was the start of the belief system that we can win away from home and we do have the culture created to win away from home,” he remembered.
“We showed that we have the ability and we can win from any situation fighting back from difficult moments.”