Rahul Dravid
Rahul Dravid - K. MURALI KUMAR

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Virat Kohli, who missed the 2nd Test at Johannesburg due to back spasms, was under a lot of scrutinies and outside noise since his decision to relinquish T20I captaincy and Rahul Dravid did well not to deny its existence. He has been also stripped of ODI captaincy as Rohit Sharma got the nod. But since both Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma are injured KL Rahul will lead in ODIs besides the 2nd Test only if Virat Kohli is fit to play the 3rd and final Test.

On the eve of the crucial Johannesburg Test, where India stand on the cusp of their maiden Test series win in South Africa, the team’s head coach Rahul Dravid heaped praise on his captain, amid his to-and-fro with the team’s administration, for not letting any of that outside noise permeate the team or affect Virat Kohli’s own preparation in any way.

Virat Kohli with Rohit Sharma
Virat Kohli with Rohit Sharma IMAGE: AFP

Rahul Dravid: Virat Kohli Has Been Phenomenal In The Way He Led India In Tests

KL Rahul walked out to lead the tourists under coach Rahul Dravid’s guidance as regular Test skipper Virat Kohli was ruled out of the Johannesburg Test due to an upper back spasm on Monday.

“I know there’s been a lot of noise on other issues a little bit, outside of the group, even leading into this Test match, but honestly, in terms of keeping the morale high, it’s not been very difficult because, to be honest, it’s been led by the skipper himself,” Dravid said on Sunday (January 2).

“I think Virat Kohli has been absolutely phenomenal over the last sort of 20 days that we’ve been here – the way he’s trained, the way he’s practiced, the way he’s connected with the group. You know, as a coach sometimes leading into the series, that there’s not really too much you can do once the game starts. But what you’re really looking to do as coaches or as support staff is to prepare well and get the team into a really good space. “

“And, you know, Virat has been phenomenal in that and the way he’s led the team… he’s been absolutely and truly a leader. And I couldn’t speak more highly about him and the way he’s committed to his own preparation, his own practice, and also just the way he’s connected with the group over the last two weeks on and off the field.

KL Rahul after his century in Centurion. Photo- AFP
KL Rahul after his century in Centurion. Photo- AFP

Virat Kohli has gone 25 Test innings without a 100 but in the words of Rahul Dravid, a string of good scores is just around the corner for the India captain.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with someone like Virat Kohli,” Dravid said. “I think he has been a phenomenal leader and, and even personally, I think that he’s in a really good space. And even though, you know, he sort of batted well, and couldn’t convert those starts, I really feel there’s going to be a big run of really good scores coming in from someone like him”.

I do feel with someone like him, you know, we’re going to see a really big run of scores once that clicks in place because yeah, he’s really led the way and I couldn’t speak more highly of him. I think he’s been a real credit to himself and to Indian cricket. You know, these last two weeks in spite of all the noise that’s been there around him.”

Virat Kohli is one of three Indian senior batters whose runs have dried up. Rahul Dravid observed that a phase of the lull was natural in any substantially long career and that the team’s senior-most batters were, unfortunately, going through the phase at the same time.

“There are phases in your career where probably you know you feel you’re batting well, but the big scores don’t necessarily come. It happens and it happens to everyone. It just so could be happening for us that three of them are going through that similar kind of phase at the same time,” Rahul Dravid said.

“I think the good point is that they seem to be batting really well, they are playing particularly well. So they’re getting off to starts. It’s not that these guys don’t know how to get 100s or they haven’t done it before. I think they’re in really good space as well.”

“So I’m really hoping that we will see some, some really good performances over the next couple of games and like I said these are challenging conditions. So it’s not always going to be easy to sometimes convert some of these starts. I do feel as a coach just looking in and just watching them train and looking at the kind of space they’re in. I just feel that you know, there could be some good runs around the corner.”

When asked about Cheteshwar Pujara’s recent form – he has averaged 26.21 since the start of 2020, with seven fifties and no hundreds – Rahul Dravid reiterated the view that batters could sometimes bat well in tough conditions without necessarily getting big scores.

Rahul Dravid Warns Indian Team Not To Be Complacent After Winning The 1st Test

On the issue of complacency creeping into India’s game after an early lead in the series, Rahul Dravid said he barely had to address the issue given the self-analytical ways of the team.

“The boys themselves have mentioned to me that, in the past, when they’ve gone 1-0 up, they haven’t responded as well as they would have liked in the next one, in particular the next game. So really, it’s been interesting for me to just listen in on some of the conversations when we were in the dressing room even just after winning the game. And just to kind of focus on it.”

Rahul Dravid Photo Credit: PTI
Rahul Dravid Photo Credit: PTI

“It was quite heartening as a coach because you know that you’re not having to push it or you’re having to drive it too much. So I think the boys are aware that in the past may be at times we’ve kind of slipped up after winning a game. So I think you know, hopefully, we should try and do better this time and we’ll be switched on.”

India’s under-fire batsmen Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara failed again as they were dismissed for 0 (1) and 3 (33) as comeback pacer Duanne Ollivier picked both scalps. India is 53/3 with opener skipper KL Rahul and Hanuma Vihari unbeaten at the crease before lunch.