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Debate on nature of track is beyond my understanding: Kohli

Indian cricket team practice session

Nagpur : India’s Test captain Virat Kohli has consciously stayed away from the debate surrounding the nature of the pitches prepared for the ongoing South Africa series as he feels that these discussions are “beyond his understanding”.

“That wicket debate is out of my understanding. I don’t know why there is so much (hue and) cry about the wickets in India. We absolutely have no problems in playing on this sort of a wicket. If both teams don’t agree on playing on a particular wicket, then it is not suited for a game of cricket. But we have no problems,” the skipper wasn’t exactly amused while fielding queries on whether Jamtha track will be a spin-friendly one.

Kohli reiterated that his team does not discuss the condition of pitches.

“We haven’t had any sort of talk about the track. Whoever wants to talk about the track is free to talk about it. As I said, we will decide a combination according to how the wicket will play over a span of five days and not how it looks for the first time,” said Kohli.

The wicket, as per reports, is expected to assist the spinners and the ball is also expected to keep low, a big help for the spinners have run through the South African batting order in the three completed innings in the series so far.

Kohli indicated that the playing XI will be decided after assessing the condition.

“In a Test side, according to the conditions, I feel you should have a couple of all-rounders, one a spinning all-rounder and one a seaming all-rounder. It’s just that one slot which brings balance to the team and must be decided according to the conditions we are playing in. Other than that anything could be a possibility,” Kohli said.

“Assessing the nature of the wicket, we have got to make a few changes. Obviously, I won’t disclose it here. We possibly might make a few changes according to the conditions,” he added.

He said though there has not been much cricket in the two Tests, especially at Bengaluru, the team members were in good nick for the game ahead.

“Mohali was a positive result for us but that was a long time back. What happened in Bangalore is something that was not in our control. Remember one fine tour that India had to Sri Lanka, it was a 20 or 22-day tour and only one day of cricket was possible,” Kohli said, referring to India’s tour of 1993-94 to the island nation.

About weather playing truant in Bengaluru, Kohli said that this is not something that has happened for the first or the last time.

“It’s not the first time that it’s happening, certainly not the last time that it has happened because weather is something that we can’t control. What we can control is our practice sessions. We have had a few and the guys are in good shape, looking in good nick and feeling mentally good about approaching this Test match.”

He said the situation when the team came here three years ago against England was different to this visit to the Orange city.

“Well, the situation is very different. In that series we were 1-2 down and that Test ended up being a draw. The wicket didn’t do much surprisingly. I hope the wicket doesn’t play like that in this game because it ended up being a very boring Test match.”

“But this time, the situation is different. We do have a lead in this series. We played positively in Bangalore as well and it’s another opportunity for us to put some pressure on the opposition once again. It’s very hard to gain momentum in the series and once you have it, you need to be in right frame of mind to continue with that. That will be our aim.”

He sounded happy his South African counterpart Hashim Amla, who scored 253 in the 2010 Test that the Proteas won by an innings, was not among the runs in this series so far, but denied that his team had specifically targetted the seasoned opener.

“If you see any sort of series or tours in the past, the opposition will obviously look to target the captain because he is the one sort of making strategies. The opposition finds it very important for him to be not comfortable when he is batting out there especially if he is a batter. That is what I have experienced in the past as well.”

The Indian captain said that the same thing happens when India goes abroad.

“When we tour abroad, they try to target the captain and probably their main players. I wouldn’t say we have targetted a particular player as such, but obviously it will be a very worrying factor for the individual that someone who is an important player has not been able to get lot of runs in the series.

He did not try to read too much into Dale Steyn’s groin strain that might lead to the fast bowler’s absence for the second straight Test match.

“We have played him enough times in the past. We have scored enough runs against him in the past. It does not make a difference if he is playing or not. We treat every bowler the same way. We treat everyone equally. It doesn’t really matter,” he concluded.

South Africa have flown in the tall Marchant de Lange as a cover for Steyn, but it remains to be seen whether he will take the field without having had sufficient preparations, in case the latter is ruled out.

The tourists have already lost the services of another frontline pacer, Vernon Philander, and his replacement Kyle Abbott played in the rain-ruined Bengaluru game.

Morkel was candid when he spoke about the challenges faced by his team’s bowlers on Indian tracks.

“Coming here as a fast bowler we weren’t expecting favours, we knew that the wickets would turn,” he had said.

“For us, mental preparation was always going to be the key, especially bowling well with a reverse-swinging ball. That has been the big strength for us over the last couple of years and that is how we achieved success in India in the past.”

South Africa will have to hold their nerves in the game here if they want to win the make-or-break battle.

Teams (from):  India:  Virat Kohli (Captain), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Varun Aaron, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul, Stuart Binny and Gurkeerat Singh Mann.

South Africa: Hashim Amla (Captain), AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis, Temba Bavuma, JP Duminy, Stiaan van Zyl, Dane Vilas, Dane Piedt, Simon Harmer, Imran Tahir, Dale Styen, Morne Morkel, Kyle Abbott, Kagiso Rabada, Marchant de Lange.

Match Starts: 9:30 am. PTI SSR SSC MRM

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