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KOLKATA: Fifty international hundreds might seem staggering for a 29-year-old but India captain Virat Kohli feels that it hasn’t been that long a journey as the figures might suggest.
Kohli’s status in world cricket grew further when he smashed his 18th Test hundred and 50th international ton on the final day of the first Test against Sri Lanka on Monday, but the skipper said that records are just numbers for him.
“It (50 international hundreds) feels good. It hasn’t been a long journey yet,” Kohli said at the post-match presentation ceremony after the first Test between India and Sri Lanka ended in a draw.
“If I can step up and perform, that will give me more pleasure than thinking of the number of hundreds I have. That will remain the mindset till I play this game,” he added.
Kohli scored an unbeaten 104 as India declared their second innings at 352 for eight, which left Sri Lanka with an improbable 231 to chase in little over a session.
The target was out of reach but the Indian bowlers went full throttle, raising a hope of a victory by reducing Sri Lanka to 75 for seven before umpires called off the play due to deteriorating light.
Asked about India’s mindset going into the final session, Kohli said he was pleased with the character shown by his team to make the match interesting despite losing considerable amount of play due to rain.
“It was important to make something out of the game with whatever time we had. Conditions changed drastically over the five days. We had to show character, having been on the backfoot on day one and day two,” he said.
“The team showed a lot of character. We didn’t look at batting collapse. We believed in our strengths. If you didn’t have intent on this wicket, it would’ve been difficult to survive. That was the key. All in all, we’re proud of how we finished.”
Bhuvneshwar Kumar was adjudged man-of-the-match for his impressive match figures of eight for 96 and Kohli was all praise for the bowler. He said that the swing bowler has now become an automatic selection in India’s Test playing XI.
“Bhuvneshwar’s bowling has picked up pace, his ball is heavier than what it used to be. He grabs his chances every time he comes into the team. He’s a massive contender to start in every Test for India, he’ll be a vital part of our plans, especially overseas,” said Kohli.
Bhuvneshwar too was of the view that he has evolved as a fast bowler with time and experience.
“When I made my debut, I was totally dependent on swing. International circuit tells you what you need to improve on. I worked hard on my fitness and that is paying off,” he said.
Admitting that it was tough to bowl in the second innings, Bhuvneshwar said: “We believed we could win. Virat said ‘Imagine we’re in this situation overseas. If we get two-three wickets early, it won’t be easy for them’.”
Sri Lanka skipper Dinesh Chandimal said the visitors were under tremendous pressure in their second innings while trying to save the match.
“In these kind of conditions, toss was crucial. We fought hard and competed well. Till the last session, we fought well and played as a team. Unfortunately, the last 10-15 overs brought a lot of pressure but we played good cricket and competed well,” he said.
“We’ll have to learn how to battle, especially in the second innings. In UAE also, we didn’t bat well in the second innings against Pakistan.”
Chandimal was effusive in his praise for paceman Suranga Lakmal, who finished with figures of seven for 119 in the drawn match.
“Lakmal is unbelievable, especially over the last one or two years. He’s someone who you can trust as a captain,” said Chandimal.