Why WTC champions tag is not a yardstick to define the journey of Virat Kohli’s Indian Test side

On the eve of the World Test Championship final, when Virat Kohli addressed the press, he was keen on playing down the hype around what is being billed as the ‘ultimate Test’. On several occasions during his interaction with the media, Kohli kept stressing that the first-of-its-kind finale was not the biggest in his decorated career.

Dealing with pressure is an important part of being an elite athlete and one can argue that Kohli was playing down the importance of the contest to make sure India aren’t overwhelmed by the sense of occasion. After all, for the first time in its 144-year history, Test cricket will have a newly-crowned champion after a title match. On top of that, Kohli has not managed to win an ICC title at the senior level as captain despite being a superstar of the sport.

The WTC was introduced to add context to Test matches and help improve the format’s dipping popularity. Despite being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and much-talked-about issues with its format, the WTC final is being looked at as a significant moment in the history of the sport.

However, Kohli was particular that the result of the one-off Test will not define the Indian Test team. The skipper even went on to say that India would treat the WTC final as the first of 6 Tests which they will be playing in England over the next 3 months.

Our thought process very different to perception outside: Kohli

Kohli kept stressing that all the hype around the WTC final ends outside the Indian dressing room, and the ones who are part of it ‘think differently’.

“We think very differently from what others on the outside perceive. We have created a process to strive for excellence, and we are heading towards that As an individual player, we won the 2011 World Cup which is a great moment for all of us. But cricket goes on, just the way life goes on,” he said.

WTC final not the ideal yardstick

It’s not very difficult to understand what Kohli has been trying to tell the world.

It is safe to say India were the best team over the period of the WTC but they had to endure a period of must-win situations before they booked their ticket to Southampton. Teams that have played more matches and won more matches than New Zealand aren’t going to be taking on India from Friday.

Winning or losing the WTC Final is certainly not going to change the fact that India have been playing a terrific brand of Test cricket that makes for an edge-of-the-seat viewing experience. The character on display when Kohli’s men take the field in whites is a fine advertisement for the format.

The Kohli effect: India’s fearless brand of Test cricket

Virat Kohli has certainly changed the way India played its Test cricket. He took over the Test team from MS Dhoni during a phase in which overseas wins had become a rarity. India’s approach was questioned on umpteen occasions when they were whitewashed overseas at the start of last decade.

However, Kohli’s approach to the format as the skipper of the Indian team came as a breath of fresh air. In his first Test as captain, Kohli showed signs of what was to come when his team went for the win in a steep chase of 364 against Australia in Adelaide.

It seemed as if the approach came to life during India’s Test series win in Australia. It was Ajinkya Rahane who led India, in the absence of Kohli, to an emphatic win overcoming several odds and obstacles and Kohli must have certainly been a proud man watching the team play the way he always strived to.

Ever since, the never-say-die spirit has been the deafening trait of Team India. Overseas results haven’t always gone their way but, more often than not, it has not been for the want of trying.

Even when India’s batting unit infamously collapsed overseas, the focus was never on the pitch or conditions. This team has owned its failures as much as it enjoyed its success.

The pace-bowling renaissance

How often in the last 2-3 years have we seen legendary Sunil Gavaskar awestruck when an Indian pacer made an opposition batsman huff and puff in the middle? The evolution of India as a lethal fast-bowling unit has happened under Kohli. India have had some phenomenal talents in the pace-bowling department but hardly have they had ones who could hunt in packs, make oppositions think twice before preparing green tops at home.

Kohli’s trust in his pacers and improved focus on fitness have certainly proved to be a key ingredients of the fast-bowling success India have been able to achieve. Not just in overseas conditions, the likes of Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav have fond memories of bowling on sub-continent tracks. Who can forget the golden run Bumrah, Ishant and Shami had when they picked up 131 wickets – the most by a pace trio in a calendar year – in 2018.

A couple of years ago, when head coach Ravi Shastri claimed that the current team is one of the best travelling Indian sides, eyebrows were raised. Former greats questioned Shastri’s assertion.

Cut to 2021, when India breached the Gabba fortress for an emphatic series win Down Under, Ravi Shastri didn’t have to make such claims. The series victory was proof enough for the character of the team.

India Today

India Today is a weekly Indian English-language news magazine published by Living Media India Limited. It is the most widely circulated magazine in India, with a readership of close to 8 million. In 2014, India Today launched a new online opinion-orientated site called the DailyO.

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