India Test skipper Virat Kohli said captaincy won't be an added pressure for him and he will look to play good cricket in the three-Test series against hosts Sri Lanka starting next week. The 26-year-old, who will be captaining the side in a full series for the first time, said it is going to be a competitive series as both India and Sri Lanka are currently in the rebuilding stage.
"Captaincy and batting are two aspects that I will not try to mix. I bat in a very responsible way, so I dont think I need to change too much in that aspect. As far as my batting is concerned, I am not taking any added pressure. It has to be the collective effort of the whole batting group to make sure we get good, big totals for our bowlers to have a crack at the opposition. I would obviously like to do well on the tour but more importantly, what matters is how we play as a batting group and how we complement each other and play according to the situation and the sessions demand us to do," Kohli said at the press conference in Colombo.
Kohli said he had fond memories of Sri Lanka and thanked the team for touring India on a short notice following West Indies' abrupt withdrawal last year. "Sri Lanka is one team we enjoy playing against each other. I remember in 2008-09 we played them so much we were actually thinking of buying houses here because we were here every three months! Sri Lanka has been one team which has been generous as far as our cricketing relations are concerned. I remember last year when we had a problem during the West Indies series, they generously agreed to step in. So, I am really grateful for that. Teams like them make international cricket more competitive and enjoyable as well, play with a lot of respect and dignity as well."
When asked about his aggressive nature on the field, Kohli shot back by saying: "I know I have been criticised a lot for being aggressive at times, but that is something that has given me success as an individual and that is something that we believe in as a team as well. I am not saying the line of discipline has to be crossed, but in terms of body language and mindset, we would like to play cricket the way we did in Australia and, I felt it gave us a really good chance to be competitive against a really good team in their home. I dont find any need to change the way I played or play at the moment. The whole team believes in the same mindset and that is what we are going to do in the series."
India have not won a Test series in Sri Lanka since 1993, but Kohli said he would not be paying any attention to statistics and will look to play positive cricket."When I came here to play the first ODI series I was told that India had not won an ODI series for 25 years. I felt no pressure then. We are here to play good cricket, every series for us is a part of our plan we want to put in for the next five to six years."
This will be India's first three-Test series in the subcontinent since their 1-1 draw in Sri Lanka five years back. Sri Lanka enter this series after a forgettable home series against Pakistan, where they lost in all three formats of the game. The hosts will also have to prepare themselves for a life after Kumar Sangakkara as the Lankan legend will retire after the second Test at Galle and Kohli said it would present a big challenge to Sri Lanka. The Indian skipper, who said his team's plan will be to get the veteran cricketer out as early as possible, also mentioned that Sangakkara deserved a fitting farewell.
"As far as cricket is concerned, the plan is to get him out as soon as possible. He would like to leave a big mark on his last few Tests. But otherwise, it will take a lot of planning to do something for Sanga, as a visiting team it would take something really special. He deserves the best of farewells. If you ask any left-hander in the world who he idolises, Sangakkara has to be one of the top three people, most of the left-handers, batsmen in general, look up to. His record, in cricket, and Test cricket, has been magnificent. He has been such a match-winner for Sri Lanka. They are going to dearly miss him. I have had a great relationship with him as well. Whenever we have played against each other, we have had conversations and he is someone who will always talk about cricket and is always willing to help the younger players around. Great man, great cricketer.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews also spoke about Sangakkara's farewell and recollected the time India toured Sri Lanka for a Test series, which happened to be Muttiah Muralitharan's last appearance in the longer format. The last time the two teams met in a Test series, it was a memorable occasion for all of us, the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan retiring, the highest wicket-taker of all time. It was a great moment for all of us and this time once again, playing against India, the great Kumar Sangakkara is going to retire. So it is going to be a special occasion for all Sri Lankans. I am sure both teams are geared up to play some of the best cricket being played.
Sri Lanka, however, have to deal with fitness issues before the start of the Test series. Mathews, is a doubtful starter for the first Test that begins on August 12 as he is yet to recover from a wrist injury he sustained during the series against Pakistan and the Sri Lankan captain said fast bowlers Dushmantha Chameera and Suranga Lakmal will miss the series due to injuries.