Kanpur: Captain Virat Kohli said he is not overly worried about the Indian Test team's recent struggles against spinners, but added that they are working on this aspect, since a side that aspires to be champion can't leave any window for the opposition to exploit.
Sri Lankan spinner Rangan Herath had wreaked havoc last year during a Test in Galle, where India struggled to chase 176 and were all out for 112. Herath took seven wickets in the second innings to spell doom for the visitors. It evoked criticism and raised questions about the Indian team's traditional strength against spin.
And if the Green Park pitch for the opening Test in Kanpur assists spinners, as it's expected to, there could be more trouble for Kohli and Co. "I think it's not a concern, but it is an area where we can improve," Kohli said.
He argued that they lost the Galle Test because they could not play spin as they would have liked. "We did not execute our batting plans, but we rectified that. The team wants to improve on that aspect of the game, something we surely need to get strong. We countered conditions really well away from home; in England, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, etc, we focused on pace, so we didn't pay that much attention on spin. But that's one area where we feel that we could have worked or should have worked more," he said.
"Now we are putting in more efforts to bat against the spinners longer. We are practicing the little things. We are covering all bases, because if you want to be a champion side, you don't want to give the opposition any window to get into the game and that's an area that needs to be worked on through the course of this season. The good thing is that we are playing a lot of Test cricket," he added.
Kohli said the current side has all the ingredients needed to dominate world cricket. "We certainly have what it takes to be the
best in the world. One area where we have tapped into is belief. A lot of young players can lack belief, there could be a lot of insecurity, whether I'll play in the next game or whether my position is settled or not. So, it's all about getting rid of all these feelings," Kohli added.
"When you step on to the pitch, you need to tell yourself that I own this position for the next 10 years for India in Tests, that's how you can be confident and stress-free. That's how you can express yourself and that's what this team has been able to do. You want to play bold cricket, take risks," Kohli said.
"If you are fearless, the results will fall your way because you are willing to take extra risks in the course of the game. I certainly feel that this team has what it takes to be the best in the world. What it requires is sustained concentration, attention to details, practicing the same way everyday, doing boring things," he said.
He also showed a lot of respect to the New Zealand side. "We expect very good competition and hard fought cricket. They are a side that does not give up. They have pretty skillful players in their ranks. We are wary of that, but we are aware of our own strengths as well. The two teams need to focus on their own strengths without handing the advantage over to other teams. They are a pretty good side, they play positive cricket. We have seen in the last couple of years, how driven by Brendon McCullum, they played fearless cricket. That's one thing which stood out for me, their mentality was that cricket isn't the end of the world, they just enjoyed the game," he added.
"That, I think, is a very difficult thing to go and execute on the pitch. You might say those things away from the field, but when you are on the ground, in the heat of the moment, your emotions and insecurities take over. I think they have been able to detach themselves from those pressures and that's why they have been successful in the last couple of years. I think Kane (Williamson) is leading the side very well," the Indian captain said.
Kohli also said the current season, in which the team is set to play 13 Tests, could lay a solid foundation. "This season is a phase where we can lay a foundation, where the Indian Test team will go. We have started off pretty well. The challenge in last one year or so has been to show composure and get the victories that we require, and we have been able to get that. Of course, this season will be career defining for all the players in this squad, because we have hardly played 17 Test matches regularly. That's one thing we are happy about, that we can plan our Test cricket, and test ourselves and get those wins whenever the chances come. Very exciting times ahead," Kohli added.
He also felt that players have stepped up in the past to replace their injured teammates and somebody will do so in the absence of the indisposed Ishant Sharma as well. The captain refused to reveal his combination for the match, but said he would not want to be predictable. "I think you can't go with one set of combination or a one track mind, it's not logical in the longer run. You become predictable. You have to field the players depending on the conditions. We have to assess the workload on bowlers as well," said Kohli.