"Exactly what we wanted to do," Kohli defends decision to bat first
When Virat Kohli decided to bat first at the Chinnaswamy stadium, it raised many eyebrows. On a surface where the chasing team has a higher success rate, Kohli became the first captain to win the toss and bat first at the venue, but soon realised it was tough. India managed just 134 for 9 from their 20 overs, a total South Africa achieved comfortably in the end, winning the match by nine wickets and levelling the series.
Kohli explained the logic behind the call, understanding India's need to play out of their comfort zone keeping in view the larger picture the World Cup next year in Australia.
"Exactly what we wanted to do and that's going to be the template we'll follow for games we have before the World Cup," Kohli said about his decision to bat. "The mindset has to be flexible and to try out things when situations are stacked against us. We will have games like this where we don't execute what we want. But as long as the intent is there to improve, we'll be in a good zone.
Despite the decision to bat, credit must go to South Africa for the way they kept India quiet. After Shikhar Dhawan blazed to put up 54 by the Powerplay, South Africa struck regular blows with Kagiso Rabada leading the way with 3/39. He was well supported by left-arm spinner Bjorn Fortuin and Beuran Hendricks replacement of Anrich Nortje from Mohali. They left India gasping by crippling the middle order with Rishabh Pant enduring another low score and Shreyas Iyer and Krunal Pandya getting out cheaply.
"I think South Africa bowled well, the pitch suited them in the first innings and we weren't able to read the tempo of the game well. I would say only in T20 cricket (where chasing is easier). In one-day cricket you have time for the bowlers to come back, but here a partnership of 40-50 can take the game away from you. One good partnership and you're under the pump even if you're defending 200," Kohli said.
Roughly 24 matches remain for India between now and the World Cup next year and Kohli clarified the aim is to get the best XI in order as soon as possible. Besides the top three Kohli, Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, the middle lower order is posing questions with Rishabh Pant's form being a major concern. With the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and spinner Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal sitting out of this series, the composition is promised for a shake-up.
"The squad composition we'll try to get right as soon as we can," Kohli said. "The guys who have done well in the domestic circuit are getting opportunities, so it's not like we are playing random people. You have to understand as well that it's a very young side, you have to give them time as a team to come together. We batted till 9 tonight, and that's one area we're looking to strengthen.