Indian captain Virat Kohli says Test cricket should not be “tinkered” with and does not see it getting compressed to four days, as the ICC mulls ways to prop up the sport’s traditional format.
Kohli, who has been one of the top run-getters in Tests in recent times, plays and talks about it with equal passion.
“I cannot explain to you the job satisfaction that you get when you do well in Test cricket, because you know how demanding it is,” Kohli told Wisden Cricket Monthly.
“It’s the most beautiful format of the game. I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere. I don’t even see it getting compressed to four days.”
Asked if he looks at the proposed four-day Test matches as a backward step, India’s batting mainstay said: “Definitely. It should not be tinkered with.”
The increasing number of T20 leagues around the world has posed a threat to the traditional five-day format, with the ODIs close to facing an existential crisis.
“In a few countries, yes,” Kohli said when asked if he was concerned about the future of Test cricket. “It all depends on the awareness of people who watch the game. If you take a country like South Africa or Australia or England, they have big crowds for Test matches because people understand the sport.
“It’s literally living life over five days. There are so many ups and downs and even when you’ve done well you’ve got to keep coming back and doing it all over again.
“I think that if you really understand the sport, if you really love the sport, you understand Test cricket and you understand how exciting it is. I cannot explain to you the job satisfaction that you get when you do well in Test cricket, because you know how demanding it is.”
The ICC will introduce a nine-team two-year Test world championship in 2019, alongside a 13-team ODI league as well as trialing four-day matches.
Kohli, who scored 593 runs from five Tests in England, is in favour of the forthcoming Test championship.
“I think that is going to give a huge push to Test cricket,” he said. “It makes every series more competitive, and there’s going to be ups and downs throughout the Championship, which I really look forward to. The teams that love playing Test cricket are always going to be passionate about it.
“And it also depends on the system you have back home as well. If you’re not going to give more importance to first-class cricket, then people are going to lose motivation to play the longest format of the game. And with the T20 format coming in I think there’s far greater responsibility on all the cricket boards across the world to treat first-class cricket really well, because if the facilities and the standard goes up, then the motivation always stays.”
The Test championship could see India playing Pakistan in the format for the first time since 2007, although the two teams aren’t scheduled to play in the first cycle. When asked if he would like to face the arch-rivals in Tests, Kohli remained non-committal.
“They have such a quality bowling attack that obviously as a batsman I would love to face them,” he said. “It could happen but it’s not something that I have any aspirations of or something that I really want badly. I don’t pinpoint things anymore. If you asked me 10 years ago whether I would be here in my life, be having a career like I’ve had, I wouldn’t even dream of it. So I am very happy with how life is going and I’m pretty happy taking every day and series as it comes.”
The prolific scorer said predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the only captain he has picked up aspects of leadership from.
“Not really anyone before MS. I was always someone who kept talking to him about the game so even when I was really young, before I was made vice-captain, I would give him my suggestions.
“I love thinking about the game and that’s why I enjoy captaincy so much and I enjoy chasing totals so much I love using my brain to figure out what needs to be done during the game. I’ve learned the most from MS, standing so close to him at slip so many times and just observing him at close quarters.”
Describing his own leadership style, Kohli said being positive is the only way he has played his cricket and expected his team to do the same too.
“I think every captain flushes in the mindset that he has himself to his team and I’ve always played my cricket with positivity. When I do well or I don’t do well, it’s not about thinking twice, only going forward,” he explained. “Results are a bi-product of that mindset. I believe in giving total freedom to the guys to go out there and play the way they want to, and to be fearless. You can make mistakes by being positive, lack of execution is fine, but hesitation is something that I cannot relate to myself so I would never want the players to play that way.”
“I’ve really enjoyed myself so far. I just wanted to play cricket at this level and now I’ve been given such an honour to captain my country, I cannot complain at all. It allows me to set the right example and work hard, so I can expect my teammates to work as hard. It has only helped me grow as a person and make me understand the game better and what needs to be done at different points of the game, or in life in general. You learn so many things about what are controllables, what are not controllables, respecting losses and working hard towards victory. When decision-making is on you, you need to be very aware of what you are doing and that makes you aware as a person in general.”