KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant provided the silver lining, but India’s third successive Test series defeat in England will also bring some pressure on Virat Kohli after losing his second major away series as skipper.
In South Africa, India didn’t win a Test until they were 0-2 down, and the same was the case in England, which the visitors eventually lost 1-4; this despite Kohli’s outstanding performances as a batsman.
The non-selection of Ajinkya Rahane first up in South Africa and Cheteshwar Pujara here have been criticised and India handed a debut to batsman Hanuma Vihari at the Oval when Karun Nair, an original member of the squad and who had scored a triple century against England in 2016 was ignored.
Kohli’s three-year captaincy will come a full circle when India tour Australia at the year-end. However, the Indian skipper denied he was weighed down by the two series defeats in a row.
“Not hard at all (to take). What matters is the attitude you play cricket with. We said at the end of the fourth game we won’t throw in the towel, and we didn’t. We were a bowler short in the second innings and even then the batsmen came and played like that.
“Lot of teams in the past have basically given up, but we did not. We do not think like people on the outside, I say time and again. This kind of series actually shows you exactly what the character of individuals is. I see that as an opportunity, not as adversity.
“When you keep winning all the time, a lot of things are swept under the carpet. You don’t realise the faults you have to work on. I certainly haven’t played my cricket that way. And I don’t see any series like that. They haven’t been tough at all because of the kind of cricket we played. I know people conveniently choose not to look at that but that is not us.
“We do not look at this series as something that makes us think we can’t play in overseas conditions. Of course, we can play, but can we capitalise on the important moments better than the opposition? At the moment, no, we haven’t done that, but in future, we want to do that, and that is the only way we win series.
“Our aim is to win series, not to win the odd Test match and be happy about it. We are definitely not happy about the way the series has gone, but the way we played cricket is something that, not me, no one in the change room, no one doubts even one per cent, because we played with the right attitude and the will to win every game that we played.”
The build up to the final Test had been marked by controversy after coach Ravi Shastri rated the current team better than those in the last 15-20 years with some of India’s greats. Former captains Sunil Gavaskar and Sourav Ganguly were among those who slammed Shastri for his comments.
Kohli was irked when asked if the tag as the best side for 15 years was something he believed in. “We’ve to believe we are the best side, why not?” The question was repeated, and Kohli asked: “What do you think?” When he was told “I’m not sure”, he responded: “You’re not sure? That is your opinion. Thank you.”
He said captaincy was about learning from mistakes. “At the end of the day, individuals have to respond in a certain way, and you have to make sure you do enough things right for them to be able to go out there and do that.
“For that you need to figure out the balance of the side, which are the guys that are responding well in different situations, and all those sort of things you learn as a captain, and you observe a lot of things as well. That is how you keep improving as a side.”
“Conveniently, as you can see a lot of people want to target only one side, which is fine. But we understand why this series has gone the way it has, we don’t see a massive-massive portion that we need to correct. Because if you are competing in every game, and you have an upper hand in every game at some stage or the other, you are doing something right. We are not starting behind all the time, we have fought back in this series, England has had to fight back a few times. They deserved to win because they played better than us, that is how we look at this series.”