The environment within the team is amazing: Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli’s decision to sit out the white-ball series against West Indies was dissected threadbare, especially given that he hadn’t had the greatest of runs with the bat in the period leading up to the three One-Day Internationals and five Twenty20 Internationals in the Caribbean and the USA in July-August.

Since his return to action after a break during which he didn’t pick up a bat for a month—his own revelation—the former skipper has gradually wended his way back into form. A patchy 35 in the first game of the Asia Cup has been followed by successive half-centuries, each more fluent than the other, and glimpses of vintage Kohli (44-ball 60) were on view on Sunday night during the five-wicket defeat to Pakistan. To some, that might have meant a point scored against those questioning his commitment, if not his pedigree. But Kohli doesn’t fall into that category. He believes he owes performances to himself and those in the cocoon of the team environment, and no one else beyond this ambit.

Enjoyment factor

“I’ve never paid attention to these things [external criticism],” he told the media in his first interaction since stepping down as Test captain in mid-January. “I’ve played for 14 years, it doesn’t happen by chance. My job is to work hard on my game, something I’m always keen to do. Everyone’s doing their job eventually. Our job is to play the game, work hard, give our 120 per cent. As long as I am doing that and the team has faith in that, what happens in the change room is the only thing that matters to me. People have their opinions and that’s absolutely fine, that doesn’t change my happiness as a person,” he philosophised.

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“I’ve taken some time away, put things into perspective, it’s given me the realisation that this isn’t the be-all and end-all of life, I need to enjoy the game. I can’t put myself under so much pressure of expectation that I’m not able to express myself. That is not why I started playing this game. I was able to find that excitement back; when I came here, the environment was very welcoming. The camaraderie with the boys is amazing. The environment within the team is amazing, so I’m absolutely loving playing at the moment and feeling good the way I’m batting.”

Backing for Arshdeep

Kohli, who will get another chance to showcase his wares in Tuesday’s must-win game against Sri Lanka, credited Rohit Sharma and the team management for the prevalent climate of inclusivity. “When the environment is good, then you learn from it and when the same chance comes again, you look forward to the catch coming to you again,” he said, springing to the defence of Arshdeep Singh, whose dropped catch off Asif Ali proved decisive. 

“The credit for that goes to the team environment, management and captain because of which everyone feels, yeah there’s no issues, next time we want to embrace similar moments. People will make mistakes, accept it, embrace it and move on.”

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