Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

Mental health huge factor on this long tour: Kohli

- Sanjjeev K Samyal

India have played remarkable cricket in the preceding two-year cycle to top Test rankings and earn the right to be in the final of the first World Test Championsh­ip (WTC). Certain conditions, though, remain unconquere­d—beating England and New Zealand on grassy pitches among them.

With an aim to correct the record against both, the India team flew to London, on way to Southampto­n, on Wednesday night. The WTC final versus New Zealand, from June 18, will kick-start a long tour which also includes a five-test series against England.

Both the Kiwis and Englishmen will have their tails up because pace-friendly conditions should suit them. In the 2018 series in UK, India had lost 1-4 and at the start of 2020, 0-2 to New Zealand away.

India captain Virat Kohli though dismissed talk of opponents having an advantage. “Play better Test cricket. That’s all,” Kohli said, about taking on New Zealand in conditions which favoured them.

Kohli drew confidence from India’s performanc­e on their last overseas tour, to Australia, where they came back to win the series 2-1. “Things are as potent for New Zealand as they are for us. Australian conditions should have favoured Australia but we beat them twice in two series. It’s how you look at the situation. If you want us to board the flight from here feeling like New Zealand has got the edge, then there’s no point taking that flight. We’re going to board that flight knowing that we’re at equal terms and whichever team performs well session by session, hour by hour is going to win that championsh­ip and we have no doubt about that,” said Kohli, at a media conference on Wednesday.

Kohli and India coach Ravi Shastri warned about the challenge of maintainin­g workload balance and mental balance on the long tour.

“You don’t want players falling out because of the mental pressures,” said Kohli. The first Test against England is in Nottingham from August 4. The series will end in mid-september with the fifth Test in Manchester.

“I think the mental health side of things will also come into picture big time because you don’t have an outlet at all in today’s day and age. You are literally going to the ground and coming back to the room and you have no space where you can just disconnect from the game, go out for a walk or go out for a meal or a coffee. I think this is a huge factor which should not be neglected,” said Kohli.

Shastri said even the fittest players will need a break. “When you have to play five Test matches in this environmen­t in six weeks, it’s no joke. Even the fittest will need a break. More than the physical part, it’s the mental part like Virat mentioned. You can be destroyed mentally being asked to do the same things day in, day out and then perform.

“It’s not easy to recover, especially if you have had a bad day. It’s important to shuffle the guys around and keep them mentally fresh because of the circumstan­ces prevailing.”

The current England pace attack, led by James Anderson and Stuart Broad, has routed India on their last three Test tours to UK. Kohli has been part of the two, in 2014 under M S Dhoni and as captain in 2018. However, the premier batsman didn’t think beating England in UK as the “final frontier”. Instead he said: “This is an ongoing process to keep the standard of Indian cricket really high.”

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Virat Kohli.

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