After smashing his way to a stupendous 169 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on the third day of the Boxing Day Test, Virat Kohli did not hold back in the press conference either. During the course of his innings, Kohli was involved in a verbal battle with Australian pacer, Mitchell Johnson. Kohli had been struck on the body by Johnson, who was trying to hit the stumps after collecting the ball on his follow through.
Kohli did not take too kindly to it and was seen talking back to Johnson. “I told him to throw the ball at the stumps and not on my body. It was not on,” said Kohli at the press conference after the day’s play.
When asked a follow-up question if he respected the Australians and Johnson, Kohli said, “I respect a few of them. I have no reason to respect anyone who does not respect me. I’m not out there to gain anyone’s respect. I’m out there to play cricket.”
Kohli also mentioned that the Australians called him a ‘spoilt brat’ and that he was happy to take them on verbally because the team was not the kind to settle down. “They called me a spoilt brat, and I said maybe that’s what I am. It seems to be working in my favour and they don’t seem to be learning their lessons,” Kohli remarked wryly.
Mitchell Johnson had been at the receiving end of some chatter from the Indians during the Brisbane Test and had replied strongly with the bat. When it was pointed out, Kohli said, “There he was batting, and there was no pressure on him as a batsman. That’s not his job. His job is to take wickets and he was going at 4.7 an over today. Didn’t get a wicket throughout the day, and I backed myself to take him on even if I keep talking to him. You cannot then back off after saying a few words and then not show it with your skill. I decided whenever he comes on to bowl I will back myself and take him on. I don’t mind having a word back neither does he, so we kept going on.”
Kohli was also quick to point out that he was trying to keep the talk out of affecting his batting. “Whatever you say, you still have to go out and play the next ball. I tried to stay positive and it worked,” said the Indian vice-captain.
It was also evident that Kohli had made some technical changes to his game. He was seen standing a yard outside the crease even against the likes of Johnson and had also shifted his guard more towards the off-stump.
“I wanted to make sure that the bowlers did not find that right spot. They try to keep it on the fourth stump and my plan was to put them off. By driving on the up and moving towards the ball, it helps in countering their plan. They don’t get to see the ball missing the stumps by inches when you are beaten and find it difficult to find the good length. That is what you want as a batsman,” said Kohli.
Ajinkya Rahane played a superb hand as well and was involved in a breathtaking 262-run stand with Kohli. The Mumbai batsman was extremely positive right from the time he came in and even beat Kohli to his hundred.
“It was pleasing to see how Jinks batted today,” said Kohli. “I was a little surprised with the way he took on Johnson (against the second new ball) but it was good to see a batsman backing himself. At no point did I tell him to hold back and it helped that we were both thinking on the same lines,” added Kohli.
“The Lord’s hundred gave me confidence. We just wanted to play our natural game and our intent was positive throughout. I just played on the merit of the ball. Virat (Kohli) just told me to back myself,” said Rahane on his innings.
Both batsmen registered their career-best knocks and Kohli mentioned that it was pleasing to get a big hundred.
“I know I have been criticized in the past for not scoring a big hundred. That was something that I learned to do today. I hope to keep this in my head and do it when I get a chance next time as well,” he said.
India still trail by 68 runs with two wickets in hand. Kohli was optimistic about India’s chances and also expected the wicket to aid spin.
“The match is nicely poised. The wicket is slowing down and there is rough. You saw KL Rahul get out off the rough. R Ashwin will come into play in the second innings,” he said, before adding that India will definitely go for any target set by Australia even if it was in the range of 350 or 360.