India skipper Virat Kohli has been in the news recently for his marriage to Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma but the 29-year-old attention is now firmly back to cricket as the team prepare for a long and gruelling tour of South Africa.
The No.1 ranked ODI batsman in the world addressed the media in Mumbai ahead of their departure for the tour series comprising of three Tests and as many T20Is along with six ODIs.
“I was away for something which was much more important, switching back to cricket was not difficult at all, cricket is in my blood,” the skipper explained about his return after the personal mini-break from the sport.
While India have rode on the success in the comforts of home to consolidate their hold over the top of the ICC Test rankings, questions still remain over whether Kohli’s men can sustain this form away to the likes of South Africa, Australia and England.
Kohli though remarked that his side was not going away to the African country in the hopes of proving a point.
“We are not going out there to prove something to someone, we are just going out there to play cricket and give 100% for the country,” he commented.
The right-hander did however say that his Indian side is ready for the challenge of performing away from home.
“(We) need to play really good cricket over a long period of time to win overseas. And we’re really looking forward to that.”
Faced with the prospect of taking on a fearsome Proteas bowling quartet of Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Kasigo Rabada, the Delhi man said that the attack India faced during its last visit in 2013-14.
“The bowling attack what they had back then, as compared to now, was more experienced. We played some really good Test cricket then,” Kohli quipped.
The master batsman said that the mindset of a batsman played a greater part than conditions at any part of the world.
“All depends on the mindset you get into as a batsman. Even Indian conditions can be tough if you’re not in the right frame of mind,” he said.
Head coach Ravi Shastri spoke about the importance the next one-and-a-half years will have on Indian cricket ahead of what in his opinion will be a very tough test.
“The fact is that players have been together for four to five years. That experience will stand them in good stead. Conditions will be tough. The next one-and-a-half years will define Indian cricket,” he remarked.
Limited-overs specialist Jasprit Bumrah has been given his maiden Test call-up for India and Shastri was excited by what the Mumbai quick could achieve on South African soil.
“I think Bumrah is very exciting. He has shown how good he is in ODIs and T20Is. He has shown he’s one of the best in the world and has been acknowledged by opponents. I think his confidence level is high and it is a good time to get him in,” Shastri said.
The first Test between South Africa will begin on January 5 at the Newlands in Cape Town.
It was an anomaly to what we have seen in the Ashes series Down Under so far for it was a day that had been dominated completely by the tourists. It was a day when England’s senior stars finally put their hands up to be counted after going into hiding in the first three Tests.
After the hosts had ended day one of the fourth Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground strongly at 244-3, England’s bowlers came roaring back on Wednesday morning to bundle out Australia for 327.
In reply, Joe Root’s men posted 192 for the loss of two wickets only to complete what has definitely been the best day for the tourists so far in the Australian summer.
Here, we look at the key talking points of a day which belonged to England.
STUART BROAD FINALLY ARRIVES AT THE ASHES
One half of England’s senior pace attack, Broad has literally been missing in action in the Ashes until Wednesday. Having picked up just five wickets in the Brisbane and Adelaide Tests, the 31-year-old went wicketless at the WACA where he returned with this worst ever Test figures.
The pacer ended his 67-over wicket drought on Tuesday with the dismissal of Usman Khawaja and that breakthrough seems to have jolted the 31-year-old out of hibernation. The right-arm quick accounted for the wickets of the Marsh brothers in the morning session along with that of Jackson Bird.
He led England’s fight-back on the day and was ably backed up by England’s other senior pacer James Anderson who chimed in with two wickets. Australia lost their last seven wickets for just 67 runs as Broad returned with his best bowling figures in a Test match since November 2016.
TOM CURRAN REPEATS OVERTON HEROICS TO END SMITH’S MCG STRONGHOLD
Curran had been denied a maiden Test scalp on Tuesday in perhaps the most agonising of ways. The debutant’s elation had quickly turned to angst when a retrospective no-ball call cancelled out his dismissal of David Warner who was batting on 99 at the time.
Wednesday finally brought the moment Curran would have most eagerly looked forward to when he was handed his Test cap as he collected a prize first-ever wicket. The right-arm pacer had Steve Smith play-on to his stumps, a dismissal which heralded Australia’s collapse. It was the first time Smith had been dismissed at the MCG in a Boxing Day Test since 2014 with the right-hander having scored 445 runs at the venue since then.
Just like Craig Overton on debut at the Adelaide Oval, Curran has the coveted wicket of an in-form Australian skipper as his maiden Test scalp, and to do it at the MCG in front of a 88,000 plus crowd on a Boxing Day Test will be a story the Surrey youngster will be telling his grandchildren in the distant future.
THERE IS LIFE YET IN ALASTAIR COOK
Throughout the Ashes, no other English player has come under greater fire than Alastair Cook whose miserable form with the bat has led to collective calls of dropping the senior-most batsman from the touring party.
Having scored only 83 runs so far in six innings, Cook put together his most accomplished display in a long time to register his 32nd Test ton. He broke a ten-innings drought of not scoring a fifty, his longest since making his debut against India in March 2006.
The most pleasing aspect of the southpaw’s innings was that he looked in complete control as he motored along to an unbeaten 166-ball 104 with the help of 15 boundaries. The opener was given a life when batting on 66 as Smith dropped a tough chance at first slip off the bowling of Mitchell Marsh. But, that was the only sniff Australia would get as Cook went past Mahela Jayawardene to become the eighth-highest all-time run getter in Test cricket with 11, 816 runs.
His unbeaten ton might have come after England have already surrendered the Ashes but it will be a timely reminder that there is life yet in the 32-year-old man who was once destined to break Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 15, 921 Test runs.
It was Cook’s fifth ton Down Under and he now remarkably has a hundred in each of Australia’s five Ashes venues.
AUSTRALIA SURRENDER INITIATIVE IN DRASTIC COLLAPSE
When stumps were called on day one, Australia taking a 4-0 lead seemed all but a formality. England’s spirit had seemed broken since the first Test and there seemed to be now way back for the tourists in the face of an unrelenting host.
England however, found a second life as their seniors came to the fore while Smith’s men showed how ordinary they can be made to look without their skipper firing on all cylinders.
Smith’s dismissal by Curran opened the floodgates and no other Aussie batsman could get themselves going on Wednesday as the last seven wickets fell for 63 runs. Shaun Marsh completed his half-century but failed to kick on while younger broker Mitchell failed to repeat his Perth exploits.
The Australian tail has wagged aplenty in the series but England’s bowlers made sure they did not this time as the hosts surrendered a strong position to find themselves on the back-foot at the end of the day.
Alastair Cook hit a long-awaited century and Stuart Broad snapped up four wickets as England’s much-maligned old guard finally enjoyed a day to remember in the Ashes series on Wednesday.
At 3-0 down after three Tests, the Ashes urn is already lost to Australia but Cook and Broad showed their careers are not over yet after critics had questioned their place in the England team.
In scorching heat in Melbourne, England bowled out the Australians for 327, with 113-Test paceman Broad capturing four wickets for 51 runs in his best bowling performance in more than a year.
Cook then ended a 10-innings stretch without a half-century, the longest drought of his 151-Test career, to claim his 32nd Test ton.
At the close, England were 192 for two and trailing by 135 runs with Cook, playing in an English-record 34th consecutive Ashes Test, unbeaten on 104 and skipper Joe Root providing support on 49 in a 112-run partnership.
Cook had a huge and symbolic let-off on 66 when rival skipper Steve Smith put down a two-handed chance after a couple of grabs at the ball in the slips off Mitchell Marsh.
But apart from the drop, it was more like the former captain’s signature batting after just 83 runs in his previous six innings of the series.
The Australians claimed two wickets with Josh Hazlewood trapping James Vince leg before wicket for 17 and Mark Stoneman out to a blinding one-handed return catch by spinner Nathan Lyon for 15.
Australia, already without the injured Mitchell Starc, had enforcer Pat Cummins on and off the field with a stomach complaint and down on pace and trademark bounce.
England earlier ended Steve Smith’s incredible three-year unbeaten run in Melbourne as they bowled out the hosts for 327 just after lunch, claiming the last seven wickets for 67 runs.
Debutant Tom Curran celebrated his first Test wicket as Smith chopped a short, wide delivery on to his stumps on 76, early on the second day.
Smith had not been dismissed in a Melbourne Test match since Boxing Day 2014, and was on track for his third century of the series on a bat-friendly MCG pitch.
In the last three Boxing Day Tests, Smith scored 192 against India, 134 not out against the West Indies and an unbeaten 165 last year against Pakistan.
With his dismissal, Smith has now scored 502 runs in the Ashes series at a stunning average of 125.50.
It was an overdue slice of luck for Curran, who had David Warner caught on 99 only to have the dismissal overturned for an overstepping no-ball on Tuesday’s opening day. Warner went on to score 103.
England got more return for bowling wide of the stumps when Mitchell Marsh also dragged on a Chris Woakes delivery for nine after his 181 in the third Test in Perth.
His elder brother, Shaun, lost a leg before wicket review on 61 off 148 balls to Stuart Broad.
Tim Paine became the third batsman to chop on to his stumps in the session for 24 off James Anderson, while Jackson Bird fell lbw to Broad for four.
Cummins was snapped up at slip off Broad for four, before Lyon was lbw to Anderson for a duck to end the Australian innings.