Virat Kohli insists his India team will not back down this summer after claiming sledging from England spurred them on to their famous victory at Lord’s last week.
The tourists sit 1-0 up going into the third Test starting on Wednesday at Headingley and, while Kohli has stressed the match is a “fresh beginning”, a degree of bad blood seemingly still lingers following a series of on-field verbal altercations during the second Test at Lord’s.
This was sparked by Jasprit Bumrah peppering Jimmy Anderson with bouncers during a 10-ball over on the third evening – the fast bowler repeatedly overstepping – before spilling into choice words between Anderson and Kohli 24 hours later and further hostility during a dramatic final day when India prevailed by 151 runs.
“[Lord’s] just showed this team is not going to back down and take a backward step when provoked,” Kohli said. “What is said on the field and what’s done in the moment gives you extra motivation. We play together, we play to win and we don’t let anyone or any opposition just take us lightly.”
Asked what specifically provoked his players, the India captain replied: “I cannot give you the details of the words that were spoken. I think it’s for the cameras and the stump mics to pick that up for both teams, equally, and then be analysed.
“It happens in the moment when you’re playing competitive sport but it’s what you do after that situation, or how you get up from that situation, that matters.”
Anderson has since claimed he did not believe Bumrah was trying to get him out on the third evening – physical intimidation was the aim, he wrote in his newspaper column – but the 39-year-old apologised to Joe Root after believing his subsequent verbals, as the players left the field, detracted from the England captain’s sparkling 180 not out.
While Kohli hinted at sticking with a winning formula in Leeds unless a bare surface brings Ravichandran Ashwin into the equation, England have lost Mark Wood to a shoulder injury with the fast bowler joining Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes, Olly Stone and Stuart Broad on a growing absentee list.
Asked if these issues for the home side presented his players with a golden chance for a first Test series win on English soil since 2007, Kohli took umbrage. “Even when key players are playing we think we can beat anyone in the world – we don’t wait for the opposition to be weak,” he said. “I don’t think that is the right question to ask a team that’s been playing such good cricket over the last so many years.”
India have not played at Headingley since a dominant innings victory in 2002 powered by centuries from Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly but Kohli is typically unconcerned about the lack of local knowledge among his current crop.
“I’m not an individual who likes to attach too much importance to things that are on the outside for us. It’s just a Test match to be played against England, be it any stadium, anywhere in India or in England.”