Melbourne: Cheteshwar Pujara didn't exactly have a great tour of Australia in 2014-15 but the Saurashtra batsman has been "flexible in altering his game" as per team's demands which has got him success this time, feels skipper Virat Kohli.
Pujara didn't have a great tour of SENA countries (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia) during the 2014-15 season but is now topping charts after three Tests with 328 runs in three games with two hundreds in team's winning cause.
"Pujara has been a lot more flexible in altering his game very quickly. From the last time he played in Australia, he has made a few changes to his set-up, and that's working for him. He is embracing the fact that if something has been told to him and he has to work on those things, he has worked on it," Kohli said about one of his trusted lieutenants.
With a bowling attack that can get 20 wickets in any conditions, Pujara's role becomes even more crucial reckons Kohli.
"And now that we have the bowling attack that we can rely on to get us 20 wickets and his role becomes even more crucial. If he can bat time and hold one end, and all the other batsmen can bat positively around him, we get 350, touching 400, in conditions in Australia, which puts us in a great position to get a result.
"He (Pujara) realises that even more now. Because of the bowling attack that we have, his job is to hold one end and bat for long hours so that we have a great opportunity to get big runs and put them out of the game. I think that confidence that is seen is because of them (bowlers) and he is embracing that very well," Kohli reasoned.
India have won two Tests in a single series in Australia after 41 years (last time in 1977-78 when Bishan Bedi's side lost 2-3) but the skipper is neither shocked nor surprised with his team's stellar show.
"We knew we had enough time," said Kohli on Sunday. "We always knew we could do this. So although we are very happy, we are not shocked or very surprised by what's happened."
"I have always believed that it is very possible because of the talent we have in the side and the mindset that we have been carrying in the last 12 months regardless of what's been said and regardless of the mistakes we have made," said Kohli.
The expressive Indian captain, who wears passion on his sleeve, said that if there is an "obsession" about achieving a specific goal, one needs to insulate himself and the team from the outside noise which can clutter the mindset.
"If you want to win a series away from home, it (there) has to be an obsession. And once you are obsessed, changing your decisions according to opinions is not an option at all. Instinctively, everyone like I said, you have a gut feeling of playing a shot or bowling a particular ball. And inside if you feel good about doing something in a particular Test match, you should just follow that," the straight-talking skipper said.
"You can't change for someone else. I think that's been the most important factor for us. That we haven't changed our mindset regardless of who said what, and at the end of the day your belief is what matters because you are out there competing. Hats off to the whole team for sticking together and believing in themselves and being obsessed about getting results," Kohli said.
The skipper lauded debutant Mayank Agarwal for his patient knock and put Hanuma Vihari's dogged resistance upfront in perspective.
"Mayank's contribution was also special. His composure, his intent and belief, it was a huge boost for us. The way he batted at top of the order on first day, it has to be praised because it is not easy to come to Australia and start like that, and against such a bowling attack. He should also get a lot of credit for the win," Kohli said.
Getting Vihari to open was an instinctive decision, said Kohli.
"We felt good about (asking Vihari to open). Instinctively, you have a feel for any decision you make. You might not think of Vihari's contribution (8 off 66 balls and 13 off 45 balls) as being significant to this game. But if you look at the fact that he played out 15 overs of the new-ball with Mayank in the first innings, it allowed Cheteshwar Pujara and me to bat, and bat, and bat," Kohli elaborated.
"I mean we (he and Pujara) were not walking in under pressure. We were walking in thinking that we could build a partnership. Even though he (Vihari) scored less runs, the fact that he played out the new ball and played his role perfectly, meant that we could do what we did in the first innings. And we as a team realized that and he was confident most importantly about doing the job for the team," he added.
Kohli informed that Ravichandran Ashwin is recuperating well and is expected to be close to full fitness before Sydney Test starting 3 January.
"It depends on the nature of the pitch. I think Ashwin's very close to being match-fit. He's been bowling a lot of overs and I'm sure these next four days will make him even stronger. So regardless of it being the last Test match, he will be willing to push himself and start for the team. But again it depends on what kind of pitch we get in Sydney," he concluded.
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Pujara said he didn't make major changes to his technique and it was just the fearless approach which helped him score runs in England Tests after facing criticism for lack of intent
Rahane, who averages 19 in 11 Test matches this year, seemed under visible pressure as he reasoned that even a "30, 40 or 50" from a specialist top-order batter would be an acceptable contribution provided the team wins.
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