Captain Kohli comes of age

New skipper credits bowling group for historic series win in Sri Lanka

Virat Kohli has praised a willingness from his bowling group to “work harder than they might have in the past” and one of the best Test innings he’s witnessed as key contributors to his team’s ground-breaking series triumph over Sri Lanka.

With victory in the third Test in Colombo, India won their first away Test series since 2011, coming back from a defeat in the opening match to outplay the Sri Lankans and deservedly claim the silverware.

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Off-spinner Ravi Ashwin was named Player of the Series for his 21 wickets, capably backed up by leg-spinner Amit Mishra (15 wickets) and paceman Ishant Sharma (13), who became the fourth Indian quick to reach 200 Test wickets after a fiery on-field incident late on day four with Sri Lanka pair Dhamikka Prasad and Dinesh Chandimal.

“It takes a lot of character for the fast bowler to come and bowl six balls on a channel on the fourth or fifth stump, knowing that you are not making the batsman play,” Kohli said of his pace brigade, which also included Umesh Yadav and recalled allrounder Stuart Binny.

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“They have done it beautifully.

“They are willing to work harder than they might have in the past, they have been willing to put in that extra effort.

“This series has been a revelation with this bowling attack.

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“I was very happy with the incident when (Ishant) was batting because it happened at the right time for us.

“We had to bowl towards the end of the day on Monday and they made him angry ... it couldn't have happened at a better time for us.

“The way he bowled in the second innings, he didn't concede a boundary for 19 overs. That's the kind of pressure he created on those batsmen because of one incident.

“An angry fast bowler is a captain's delight.”

After taking over the reins officially following the Test retirement of MS Dhoni in January, Kohli has been widely praised for effective man management of his charges.

“It is very important to back individuals and get the best out of them because you will never know until you give them the chance to express themselves,” he said.

“With guys like Stuart (Binny), Rohit (Sharma), it's very important to back them … because guys like that can be very beneficial for the team.

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“They can actually turn the game around for you. So from my end, I made all the effort to make them feel comfortable and allowing them to go out there and express themselves.”

The return of Cheteshwar Pujara at the top of the order in the final match also reaped dividends, as the 27-year-old added his name to an exclusive list of Indians to carry their bat in a Test with a splendid 145 not out in the first innings.

“I think this series belongs to the bowlers, because they have been outstanding, but Cheteshwar's knock was world class, one of the best I have seen in Test cricket,” Kohli added.

“The way we won this series should be the right kind of catalyst for us to play the same kind of cricket in future as well.

“We maintain that drawing a Test match or thinking of those sort of things has to be the last option for our group of guys right now.

“They have responded beautifully and there is nothing better than winning. I think this might be the right kind of boost that we require.

“These are special moments. These are the kind of things you remember when you are done with your career.”