After joining forces amid various controversies, Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli and newly-appointed head coach Ravi Shastri on Thursday stressed on the importance of maintaining consistency and working towards holding on to the No.1 Test rank.
Shastri, who returned to the national team as the head coach, a year after being snubbed as the team director, on Thursday said that his and the team’s main focus will be on maintaining India’s status as the top Test playing nation.
“I came to Sri Lanka as an 18-year-old kid as part of the U-19 team, my first stint as a broadcaster was here in 1992. My first stint as coach also happens to be in Sri Lanka,” Shastri recalled.
“They have a great track record playing at home, it is one of the best teams at home if not the best,” Shastri told reporters ahead of the two-day practice match, starting on Friday at Moratuwa.
“We will not take them for granted and try to maintain consistency and remain No.1 in Tests. Above all, we need to look to improve and learn new things,” he added.
Asked about his role in the dressing room, the former India all-rounder said: “My role will be to get the players in a frame of mind that they go out there and play at their optimum level. It sounds like a simple task but lot goes on behind the scenes.”
Kohli, who was at the centre of the controversy surrounding Anil Kumble’s exit as the head coach, said it was the last tour in 2015 when the team gelled together as a unit to clinch the series 2-1 and thereafter carried on the momentum to reach the top spot in the five-day format.
“The last tour taught us how to get together as a unit. After losing that first Test at Galle, we came together and this is where it all began for us as we went on to become the No.1 side in the world,” he said.
“There is a lot of hard work that goes into the preparations for a Test match or tour. You can’t just turn up for a series like this. Everyone in this team takes equal onus and responsibility for that, and that is how professional this team is.”
On being asked about the last-minute injury withdrawal of opening batsman Murali Vijay, Kohli said it was “unfortunate” but also said it would give another player a window to prove his mettle in international cricket.
“Every player who comes into the team wants to perform and do well. Injuries are unfortunate and can’t be controlled. Murali Vijay was unlucky to be ruled out and credit to him for letting the selectors know that he wasn’t feeling 100 per cent and not match fit,” he said.
Vijay ruled himself out with a wrist injury and was replaced by left-handed opener Shikhar Dhawan, who also will play his first Test since the home series against New Zealand last September.
“Someone like Abhinav (Mukund) has done well in domestic cricket, Shikhar when he came here last time scored a century, then he had to miss couple of games and Pujara opened.”
“So, players have started making the best of the opportunities they get. Every player wants to play and not sit on the bench. Shikhar will be looking to make a point after being initially left out. (Lokesh) Rahul has been a champion opener for us, so all the players will be looking to do well,” Kohli summed up.
During the tour, India will play three Tests, five One-day Internationals (ODI) and a one-off T20 International. The first Test will be played at Galle from July 26.