Virat Kohli: It's unfair to target the seniors

The young Indian batsman opens up about his career - from the highs of the World Cup to the lows of India's losing streak in Tests.

Young Turk Virat Kohli, who is expected to one day captain India, spoke to The Telegraph at the InterContinental on Saturday evening.

The following are excerpts

Has the Perth Test (scores of 44, 75) become the turning point in your career as an India cricketer?

Look, I didn’t see my career changing drastically even after the first two Tests (Melbourne, Sydney). Despite what was said and written, failures do happen in cricket and you need to be tough enough to emerge stronger from such situations. You can’t have a perfect career, with everything so smooth.

To improve, you do need to experience the ups and downs...

Absolutely... I’d come to Australia before, for an Emerging Tournament, but the wickets had then been flat... Had been very different... The bowling attack, too... In real terms, this is my first trip to Australia and I shouldn’t have been written off after just one Test... You shouldn’t judge somebody on the basis of one or two Tests, that’s not fair. For a batsman, there’s no second chance... One mistake and you’re gone.

It must have been frustrating, for you’d got starts in the first innings both in Melbourne and in Sydney, but didn’t capitalise. What happened?

I’d been enjoying the challenge, except when I got out on the first ball in the second innings in Melbourne... It just so happened that I couldn’t contribute meaningfully.

Surely, you would’ve been feeling the pressure in the lead-up to the third Test, in Perth?

I’d felt the pressure before the second Test, in Sydney... I guess I’d been paying too much attention to what was being written and said... Looking back, that was a distraction... I’d become too desperate to make a mark too quickly. I forgot that I had to be patient, forgot that any Indian cricketer invariably is under plenty of pressure.

"Mentally, I wasn’t in the right space (in WI)... I wanted to make it big straightaway"
What did you do before Perth?

Stopped taking note of what was being said and written... I also told myself that I was good enough to be here (with the Test team) and that I had to back myself... That I didn’t have to doubt myself. I made a conscious decision to test my mental toughness, to see how patient I could be... I looked inwards, focused on my game, without losing sleep over external issues.

The positive reviews after your Perth performances must have delighted you...

I’d stopped paying attention to the negative stuff and, because of that, I didn’t think it necessary to go through the positive things either... Today, I just want to be in my own space, focus on what I need to do... I know I’d batted well... I’d been positive, but cautiously so, not recklessly.

But appreciation from the likes of Ian Chappell and Ravi Shastri must be welcome, isn’t it?

Sure, if it comes from people who understand the game and have themselves been successful... It means I’ve been improving, otherwise they wouldn’t have bothered.

The final Test is just days away...

I’m excited... I’m feeling good after Perth and, hopefully, I’ll be able to make a contribution and we’ll finish this series with a win.

Who has been the toughest bowler to face?

Peter Siddle... Swings it both ways at good speed.

You’re a member of the 2011 World Cup-winning squad and have seen a lot of success in ODIs. What’s it like being in a losing team (in Test cricket)?

Well, you can either go into a shell, go into a negative space, or take a different approach... Of standing up to be counted, of letting the opposition know that you’re around with a purpose. I’ve taken the latter approach. It’s probably easier getting into a shell, but one gets picked to show character, to stand up to the opposition... One can’t afford to be in a negative zone, one has to think positive. In my view, dedication and passion comes into play... I do try and make the opposition work hard for my wicket and that’s the way it should be.

The senior pros have been getting a lot of stick. What’s your take?

It’s unfair to target the seniors, especially when we talk of stalwarts who’ve played for over 15 years... Some haven’t done well overseas in the last two series, but how can you forget what they’ve done in the past? There have been many occasions when they’ve done well overseas, what happens to those performances? We look up to the seniors... That we’re in the same dressing room is a privilege... For a 23-year-old like me, it means a lot to be playing with them... Indeed, the seniors have guided us youngsters. I’ve been shocked to learn that (after Perth) people want the seniors out.

Why did you not make an impact in your debut Test series (in the West Indies), last June-July?

Mentally, I wasn’t in the right space... I wanted to make it big straightaway... Thought Test cricket is very different from the ODIs... It is different, but the basics are the same.

The last one... How did you overcome that disappointment?

It was hard and I’d become desperate in England, when I returned to the India dressing room for limited overs cricket... I spoke to MS (captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni) and the coach (Duncan Fletcher)... Both advised me to enjoy the game and to cherish whatever I was getting... They asked me not to put myself under too much pressure, for that would harm me and affect my decision-making... Their advice helped.