How Virat Kohli’s midnight meet turned team around after 36 all out

Team India offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin and fielding coach R. Sridhar gave a sneak peek in what went behind turning the tide for side after slumping to a shocking 36 all out against Australia in the opening game of the four-match series in Adelaide. Regular skipper Virat Kohli had to fly back home for the berth of his daughter but India fought back to win the Test series 2-1 with a remarkable three-wicket win at the Gabba in Brisbane.

The first step in the turnaround was the victory in Melbourne. Sridhar in a chat on Ashwin’s YouTube channel revealed how the think-tank, including Kohli and stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane, decided to plot India’s rise with key strategic moves.

In a video posted on his YouTube channel, Ashwin said: “(After the Adelaide Test) Virat just came to all of us and said ‘Boys, I’m returning home.’ It was like a chat that happens at a college farewell. I thought in my mind ‘Bro, don’t go, we’ve just been bowled out for 36, we need you'(in jest)”

“It was midnight, around 12.30am, the night we lost the Adelaide Test. Virat Kohli messaged me: ‘What are you doing?’ I was shocked. I thought ‘why is he messaging at this time?’ I told him ‘head coach (Ravi Shastri), myself, Bharat Arun and Vikram Rathour are sitting together’.

“He said, ‘I’ll also join you’. I said, ‘no problem, come over.’ He came there and all of us started discussing. That’s where ‘Mission Melbourne’ began. Shastri made a point there: ‘This 36, wear it like a badge! This 36 is what will make this team great’.

“We were slightly confused but then we started talking about the decisions we’d have to take. Then Virat called Ajinkya the next morning and we had a very good discussion. After a 36 all-out, usually teams would strengthen their batting. But Ravi Shastri, Virat and Ajinkya decided to strengthen the bowling. That’s how we replaced Virat with Ravindra Jadeja, and it was a masterstroke,” Sridhar said.

Head coach Ravi Shastri wanted more left-handed batsman in the playing XI to mix things up. “Shastri wanted to have more left-handers. He felt because of the presence of only right-handers, the Australians kept bowling at that one spot, so if we bring in a left-hander, their lines may vary, and it may work for us tactically. So, most of the decisions were taken there and it was decided that we’ll go in with five of our best bowlers.

“We also decided not to over practice, so we gave the boys an off day and called for a team dinner. We arranged some games because negativity will creep in when you’re alone at the room,” Sridhar informed.

Ashwin chipped in: “Yes, we played dumb charades – Bollywood movies, Hollywood movies and cricketers. The culmination of that event was Ravi Shastri enacting a player’s name and the entire team burst out in laughter. Everyone left in good spirits.”